By Jon Swartz
Facebook Inc. indefinitely banned President Trump from posting on its platforms Thursday, as tech companies responded to Wednesday’s Capitol siege by Trump supporters whom the president openly supported on social media.
Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +3.50% Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said that the risks of letting Trump stay on Facebook ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden were “simply too great” after Trump supporters conducted a withering assault Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Zuckerberg said Trump’s posts served to “condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building.” — a Trump video , in which he professed “love” for a riotous mob that stormed the Capitol in protest of his electoral defeat, was liked more than 179,000 times on his Facebook profile.
The events at the Capitol “clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” Zuckerberg said in a public Facebook post Thursday morning.
Facebook initially planned a 24-hour ban for Trump but updated its plan Thursday. The block will apply to both Facebook and Instagram and last “for at least the next two weeks.” Biden’s inauguration takes place Jan. 20.
The situation is even more complicated at Twitter Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +3.23% , where Trump has 88.7 million followers and his controversial video has been viewed 11.4 million times. Twitter, too, flagged the video . It blocked the video from being replied to, retweeted or liked “due to a risk of violence” before removing it.
Twitter said Wednesday afternoon that it planned to block Trump from using its platform for 12 hours, provided that the president deleted posts that violated the company’s terms. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was set to regain access to his account on but that Twitter warned he could be permanently blocked from the service if he continued to violate Twitter rules.
A Twitter spokesperson told MarketWatch on Wednesday that Twitter is “continuing to evaluate the situation in real time, including examining activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter.” The company plans to “keep the public informed, including if further escalation in our enforcement approach is necessary.”
When asked Thursday morning if Trump was allowed to post to Twitter again, a spokesperson clarified that the 12-hour ban commenced after Trump deleted three offending tweets that the company required to be erased. The company confirmed that the tweets had been deleted, but would not say when nor when the ban would officially end.
Social-media companies face increasing pressure from lawmakers and citizens for acting as digital megaphones for Trump’s tweets and online videos, which have stoked violence and mayhem. One potential impact is reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a crucial internet law that protects social-media sites from being held liable for the content posted by their users.
A spokesman for Alphabet Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +2.21% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +2.40% YouTube unit said it “removed a video posted this afternoon to Donald Trump’s channel that violated our policies regarding content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Election. For reference, the video is labeled and still up on Twitter.” Snap Inc.’s SNAP Snapchat also locked down Trump’s account, according to a report by Axios on Wednesday night.
“We do allow copies of this video if uploaded with additional context and sufficient educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic (EDSA) value,” the Google spokesman added, meaning that videos could use footage from Trump’s video.
The tech bans even went beyond social media, with Shopify Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209033712/composite SHOP +3.55% blocking the president from online stores that sell Trump-themed merchandise. a Shopify spokesperson confirmed Thursday that stores affiliated with President Trump had been “terminated.”
“Based on recent events, we have determined that the actions by President Donald J. Trump violate our Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits promotion or support of organizations, platforms or people that threaten or condone violence to further a cause,” the statement read.
As Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet weigh their options on what to do with Trump’s incendiary social-media rants, some industry observers insist they have no choice but to ban his comments that reach millions of Americans.
“There have been good arguments for private companies to not silence elected officials, but all those arguments are predicated on the protection of constitutional governance,” tweeted Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, who is a vocal critic of the company. “Twitter and Facebook have to cut him off. There are no legitimate equities left and labeling won’t do it.”