Trump And Allies Enraged As Social Media Ban Expands

Twitter ban
Photo by Mike Licht, CC BY 2.0

Steve Cortes, a senior adviser with Donald Trump's election campaign, took to Twitter to complain that Trump and his "movement" were being censored by "Big Tech" as a number of social media platforms suspended the accounts of the White House occupant and his supporters after Wednesday's deadly attack on the Capitol.

"I'm on Bannon's War Room soon discussing Big Tech/Big Brother suppressing the speech of the president and our movement - including Michelle Obama's shameful call for a permanent de-platforming," tweeted Cortes.

The former first lady issued a statement Thursday night calling for tech companies and social media platforms to permanently ban Trump from Facebook and Twitter, which reads in part, "Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior–and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms and putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation's leaders to fuel insurrection."

On Friday, Reddit banned the subreddit group "r/DonaldTrump," with a spokesperson for the platform tellingAxios, "Reddit's site-wide policies prohibit content that promotes hate, or encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals. ... 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."

Other platforms have cracked down on Trump's ability to post content and his supporters' ability to incite further violence.

Most prominently, Twitter temporarily suspended Trump's account after his supporters stormed the Capitol with his encouragement, and he marked his return to the platform 12 hours later with a prerecorded speech condemning the "heinous attack on the United States Capitol" and adding the lie, "I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders."

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, issued said Thursday that Trump would be blocked indefinitely from using his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

"We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great," Zuckerberg said in a statement posted to Facebook. "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."

TikTok is blocking videos of the speeches Trump made to his supporters on Wednesday and redirecting hashtags used by them to promote violence. Trump's accounts on Twitch and Snapchat have been disabled, and Shopify dropped stores selling Trump merchandise from its platform Thursday.

The move to de-platform Trump and his supporters who call for violence comes in the wake of reports that people who broke into the Capitol had mobilized for months on social media prior to the attack.

Robert Evans, an expert in far-right extremism, had warned about an attack two days before it took place and told the Wall Street Journal, "It was planned by a distributed network of extremists for months, and in some ways for years."

But far-right voices have slammed the move to ban Trump and his extremist supporters from social media as censorship.

"We must oppose political correctness and social media censorship and identity politics and this cult of wokeness," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Friday.

Fox personality Tomi Lahren tweeted on Thursday, "If big tech purges all of us conservatives, they are losing half of their users. Bad business move. Think it over."

Conservative pundit Matt Walsh slammed CNN reporter Oliver Darcy for calling for more responsibility to curb disinformation on the part of tech platforms, tweeting, "Yes I'm sure you want to de-platform your competitors for purely noble reasons."

But a simple ban may not suffice to solve the problem of Trump's incitement of violence on social media, experts say.

Mike Horner, associate director of social informatics research at Virginia Tech's Center for Human Computer Interaction, told Forbes, "It's a lot like playing whack-a-mole. You try to stop one claim and another one pops up. It's really hard to stop."

But, other experts say, something needs to be done after such an assault on democracy.

Sinan Aral, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggested that media companies are ready to face issues of the false information and incitement to violence that are shared on their platforms. "This has been a steady momentum build of reaction by social media platforms," he said. "This is a culmination of an understanding of social media companies that they need to do more, that the laissez-faire attitude isn't going to cut it."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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