After Wednesday’s unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Donald Trump rioters — and Trump’s subsequent video in which he told them he loved them — Facebook and Twitter finally temporarily suspended the president from their platforms.
Twitter said Trump’s account would be locked for 12 hours and could be suspended permanently if he didn’t remove several tweets that violated its civic integrity and violent threats policies.
“As a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington, D.C., we have required the removal of three @realDonaldTrump Tweets that were posted earlier today for repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy,” the company tweeted from its Twitter Safety page.
It followed up by stating if Trump failed to remove the inflammatory tweets, the account would remain locked. “Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account,” Twitter added.
Facebook likewise initially banned Trump from posting on its platform for 24 hours, saying two of his posts violated its rules. The company also removed posts from Instagram, which it owns.
“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s chief of safety and integrity, said according to TIME. “We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone added in a statement to CNN Business, “The violent protests in the Capitol today are a disgrace. We prohibit incitement and calls for violence on our platform. We are actively reviewing and removing any content that breaks these rules.”
In a statement posted to his page Thursday, Jan. 7, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said they were extending Trump’s suspension from its platform in the interest of public safety.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Critics of the social media giants are saying they did too little, too late. While the companies labeled some of Trump’s tweets and posts as violations, they stopped short of removing them. Users accused Twitter and Facebook of actually being complicit in Trump inciting violence at the Capitol by allowing him to spread misinformation through their platforms as long as they did.
“Remember that time he was threatening nuclear war on your platform and you guys did nothing? Thanks for taking a stand now that he’s out the door!” user @Homochromatin tweeted.
“Very odd I’m trying to figure out why twitter decided to take action today and not these other times,” tweeted another user @tha_rami, along with screenshots of Trump calling Black Lives Matter protestors “THUGS” after the murder of George Floyd and infamously writing “when the looting starts, the shooting starts;” as well as threatening Iran and North Korea.
The most recent tweets and posts to which the companies referred included a video posted by Trump in which he called the rioters who breached the Capitol building and posed threats to lawmakers working to certify Electoral College votes “very special.” Trump also repeated false, unproven claims that “a sacred landslide election victory” had been “unceremoniously & viciously stripped away” from him in his messages to followers.
“I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side But you have to go home now,” Trump said in the now-deleted video after hours of violence. “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
In addition to one woman being shot dead by Capitol police for trying to get into a section of the Capitol where lawmakers were sheltering in place, three other people on the scene died of unspecified “separate medical emergencies” and more than 50 people were arrested. During the chaos rioters scaled the Capitol’s walls, stormed in with firearms, trashed lawmakers’ offices, took photos with statues, broke windows and damaged other property.
Twitter said they finally made the decision to censor Trump because “Our public interest policy — which has guided our enforcement action in this area for years — ends where we believe the risk of harm is higher.”
YouTube also removed Trump’s video, with head of policy communications Farshad Shadloo stating it “violated our policies regarding content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Election.”
At 3:49 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, after calls from lawmakers and American citizens alike to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office immediately, Trump finally agreed to a peaceful transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden. The certification of Biden’s election — delayed all day by the chaos in the Capitol and continued objections by Republican lawmakers after the joint session of Congress reconvened Wednesday evening — had been completed less than an hour before Trump’s surrender. The lame-duck president made the statement through his Deputy Communications Chief Dan Scavino’s Twitter account.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump’s statement via Scavino said. “I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
Some users, including Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, called on Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump permanently. The #BanTrump hashtag was also trending on Twitter before the company took action.
“He will do it again. You know he will do it again. Everyone knows he will do it again. DELETE HIS ACCOUNT before more people die,” user @EdenCaly wrote.
“This temporary ban doesn’t go far enough,” Robinson, whose organization has long called for Trump’s removal from social media sites. “Ban him permanently. He’s done enough damage. Do not allow him to return in a day to continue to spread dangerous misinfo.”