Facebook and Twitter have moved decisively to contain a wave of misinformation and incitement to violence led by US president Donald Trump after supporters of the outgoing leader took their grievances from social media to the US Capitol.Both social media firms locked Trump’s accounts and deleted posts which sought to call into question the election results and praise supporters who had stormed the Capitol Buidling as lawmakers attempted to certify the election of Joseph Biden as president.
Social media sites take action:
The decision to suspend Trump from both his Twitter and Facebook accounts followed an invasion of the US Capitol building by hardcore Trump fanatics who laid siege to the building in a futile attempt to prevent Biden from claiming the presidency.
Trump had earlier fanned the flames by messaging protesters to say: ’I love you’ before calling on protesters to disperse while also doubling down on false claims of election fraud.
The words prompted Twitter to remove three offending tweets, explaining that they were left with no choice as the messages amounted to ’severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy’.
In a further blow to the outgoing president, Twitter said the account would be permanently blocked if the offending tweets were not deleted.
Warning that Trump had finally overstepped the mark, Twitter said: “Future violations of the Twitter Rules... will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account.“
The hardline stance sets the scene for a decisive battle of wills between Twitter and Trump, raising the likelihood that Trump’s long association with the platform could be coming to an end.
Trump faces a similar predicament on Facebook and Instagram, where moderators have banned him from posting for 24 hours. YouTube also removed the offending video from its servers.
Explaining its rationale behind the temporary ban Facebook wrote: ’We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.’
Adding to the president's misery Snapchat joined its peers in preventing any new posts from being created for an unspecified period.
Why it matters
The concerted social media pushback comes as both consumers and the ad industry apply ever-mounting pressure on content providers to actively police posts, sparking efforts to strengthen policy moderation and reporting functionality.
Among these measures is a joint effort by Facebook and Google to come to the aid of Britain’s NHS in combating coronavirus misinformation by surfacing official guidance to the top of search result.
A separate effort by Twitter has also sought to clamp down on ’opportunistic’ adverts sprouting for face masks during the height of panic surrounding the first wave of the virus.
Mindful of the febrile atmosphere surrounding US politics Facebook had already blocked all political ads during the final week of campaigning before the 3 November presidential election.
As part of their combined efforts to get a handle on the problem, Twitter and Google have been busy honing their proprietary misinformation tools in an attempt to counter an explosion of false claims and misleading claims.
Touchstone issues are not limited to politics and the pandemic, with at least 8 million Americans being exposed to climate denial ads during the first half of 2020 alone.
Brands have already taken matters into their own hands by boycotting Facebook en masse in an attempt to force change in regards to the removal of racist material. The show of force ultimately had little impact however, and Facebook's earnings continue to soar.
Trump has relied on Twitter throughout his four-year tenure, subverting the platform to his ends by circumventing traditional media outlets to communicate his own opinions as facts to more receptive elements of the electorate.