By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — After President Donald Trump’s online and rally rhetoric was linked to violence as a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building last week, many social media giants took the unprecedented step of restricting or banning the president’s accounts.
Some experts lamented that these steps have come too late. The recent actions from big tech giants also stoked questions about free speech and the political power concentrated in Silicon Valley.
Five people died in the riot at the Capitol last Wednesday, including one police officer, just hours after Trump held a rally and urged his supporters to march to the Capitol as a joint session of Congress was taking place. As the world watched the violence unfold, Trump shared a video on his social media accounts telling the protesters “we love you” and “you’re very special” as he told them to go home.
Here is a roundup of social media companies that have since taken action to ban or restrict the president on their platforms.
Twitter, by far Trump’s most-used outlet to reach supporters, permanently suspended the president’s account last Friday. He had some 80 million followers prior to his suspension.
“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the company wrote in a statement.
The company also blocked Trump from posting a statement on the @POTUS account, saying users who are banned cannot post from other accounts. The @POTUS account, rarely used by Trump himself over the past four years, will be transferred over to the next administration following President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Facebook and Instagram
Facebook and company-owned Instagram indefinitely blocked the president’s accounts last Thursday after the violence at the Capitol.
“Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies. We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech. But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” he added. “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.”
Apple, Google and Amazon Web Service crackdown on Parler
The self-proclaimed “free speech” platform Parler became a runaway hit with Trump supporters in recent months. In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s actions late last week, many conservative users turned to Parler to connect.
The app, however, was soon removed from the Android app store by Google and from Apple’s app store after last week’s incidents.
“In order to protect user safety on Google Play, our longstanding policies require that apps displaying user-generated content have moderation policies and enforcement that removes egregious content like posts that incite violence. All developers agree to these terms and we have reminded Parler of this clear policy in recent months. We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.,” a Google spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. “We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”
Apple similarly told ABC News in a statement: “We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.”
Amazon Web Services, which hosts Parler, also suspended web hosting service to the platform — forcing it offline. An AWS spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of a letter to Parler from the company that was obtained by Buzzfeed News, but otherwise declined to comment.
Parler CEO John Matze responded to the news in a statement, saying, “I founded Parler to be a place of open dialogue and discussion where we could work to move past the anger and hostility that seems to be consuming our otherwise civil society. Parler strives to bring people together and find common ground, peace and healing. We do not condone or accept violence on our platform and we never will. “
Matze added that the platform has Community Guidelines that expressly forbids incitement or threats of violence and has a system “which engages our community to quickly and transparently enforce these rules and remove prohibited content.”
“Evaluated objectively, our system worked as well or better than the methods used by our competitors, while adhering to our principles. And we are working to improve it every day. We invite those with concerns to join our community and see our system in action. And we welcome your feedback,” Matze said. “It is important to all of us at Parler that we get it right. We care deeply and are committed to being part of the long-term solution to save civil discourse.”
Reddit has taken the step of banning the subreddit page r/donaldtrump in the wake of last week’s events.
“Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit content that promotes hate, or encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals,” the company told ABC News in a statement. “In accordance with this, we have been proactively reaching out to moderators to remind them of our policies and to offer support or resources as needed. We have also taken action to ban the community r/donaldtrump given repeated policy violations in recent days regarding the violence at the U.S. Capitol.”
The company had previously banned a similar subreddit, r/the_donald.
While these are not official accounts of Trump, they gained immense popularity among his followers.
The e-commerce platform Shopify said last Thursday it has terminated the official stores affiliated with Trump.
“Shopify does not tolerate actions that incite violence,” a company spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. “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.”
“As a result, we have terminated stores affiliated with President Trump,” the spokesperson added.
The company confirmed that TrumpStore.com and shop.donaldjtrump.com were removed. The latter is the official shop of the Trump Campaign, while TrumpStore.com is run by the Trump Organization.
Snapchat indefinitely locked the president’s account on its platform, the company confirmed to ABC News.
A company spokesperson cited deep concerns over the president’s rhetoric as the reason and noted that it had already stopped promoting the account on its Discover pages last June.
Gaming platform Twitch also disabled the president’s channel last week, the company confirmed to ABC News.
“In light of yesterday’s shocking attack on the Capitol, we have disabled President Trump’s Twitch channel,” Twitch said in a statement. “Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the President’s incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence.”
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