Show an ad over header. AMP

Social media platforms muzzle Trump after Capitol melee

Facebook and Twitter both took their strongest actions yet to block President Trump after his messages egged on misinformation-fueled mobs storming the Capitol Wednesday.

Yes, but: Many critic say the social media companies bear some responsibility for the day's chaos for not reining in Trump sooner and harder — and the brief suspensions fell short of calls for the networks to permanently ban Trump's account for repeated rule violations.


Driving the news:

  • Trump's comments praising the crowd, and repeating false claims of a stolen election, initially received labels from Twitter and Facebook for containing disputed information about election fraud. But by midday executives at both social media companies were discussing stronger actions.
  • In the end, Twitter removed three posts from the president, including a video in which he urged rioters to "go home" but also told them, "We love you, you're special" and once more falsely claimed he'd won the election in "a landslide." Twitter also locked Trump's account until the offending tweets were permanently removed and banned him from posting for 12 hours.
  • I'm told the decision was made using Twitter's standard decision-making process which is headed by Vijaya Gadde, the company's Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety lead.
  • Facebook and YouTube also took down the video, with Facebook also banning Trump from posting for 24 hours.
  • Snapchat also locked Trump's account, the platform announced.

Between the lines: Facebook and Twitter's actions did belatedly silence the President, as social media remains his president's preferred method of communication. Indeed, his only public response to Wednesday's events were the posts he made on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — each of which reached a wide audience before they were removed.

Yes, but: The services' many critics saw the moves as "too little, too late," and outside groups as well as people inside the companies pressed more strongly than ever for a complete ban.

At Facebook, employees railed on the company's internal network about the company's lack of action.

  • After 4 p.m. PT, Mark Zuckerberg, in an internal message, said Facebook was "treating this situation as an emergency" and implementing additional measures to keep people safe.
  • Roughly an hour later, the company announced its 24-hour ban on Trump. But that didn't quell the dissent.
  • "I don’t think anything would meet employee expectations short of a permanent account deletion," one Facebook employee told me.

What they're saying: A complete ban on Trump is what many outside the company were seeking as well.

  • Former Facebook security executive Alex Stamos: "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. Twitter and Facebook have to cut him off."
  • Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson: "Enough is enough. It's time for Facebook and Twitter to kick Trump off their platforms," tweeted.
  • Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt: "Social media companies should suspend his accounts ASAP as they would do for anyone else advocating disinformation and promoting violence. It’s time."

The big picture: Increased echoes of online conspiracies by the president, prominent Republican officials and right-wing media in recent weeks helped fuel calls for violence and protest leading to Wednesday's historic events, misinformation experts tell Axios.

  • The President's supporters that stormed the Capitol had been planning to do so online for weeks, Buzzfeed News reports.
  • While some of the plotting occurred on fringe forums like 8kun and TheDonald.win, other plans were created in the open on groups on Facebook.
  • Facebook on Tuesday finally took down the Red State Secession group, one of the places where people were actively planning Wednesday's actions.

Be smart: "The chaos that unfolded at the Capitol was inevitable," says Katy Byron, a misinformation expert and head of MediaWise, a digital literacy initiative at Poynter.

  • Since the November vote, the President and his allies have frequently touted conspiracy theories to pressure officials into overturning the election result. During the president's leaked call with Georgia's Secretary of State earlier this week, for example, he cited QAnon conspiracy theories about missing ballots.
  • "The president bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point," said Republican Sen. Richard Burr in a statement Wednesday evening.

What's next: The anger within Facebook is real, and is likely to show itself at a companywide meeting Thursday. One Facebook employee told me the internal mood has curdled to the point where surprising numbers inside the company are rooting for a severe regulatory backlash — or even a breakup.

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution could bar Trump from holding office again

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less

"Roz" Brewer will become only the 2nd Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is about to become only the second Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company. She starts as Walgreens CEO on March 15.

Why it matters: It's a stark reminder of how far corporate America's top decision-makers have to go during an unprecedented push by politicians, employees and even a stock exchange to diversify their top ranks.

Keep reading... Show less

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Keep reading... Show less

Facebook stock whipsaws amid ad targeting concerns

Facebook's stock showed volatility in after-hours trading Wednesday, despite adding users and beating on top and bottom lines.

Why it matters: Investors seem spooked by proposed changes to user data collection by Apple that would impact Facebook's ad business, in addition to perennial threats of new federal privacy regulations.

Keep reading... Show less

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told me.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Keep reading... Show less

Podcast: Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

Keep reading... Show less

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence "will persist in the weeks." The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories