Soon after a violent mob of US President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the historic US Capitol building on Wednesday, the finger of blame was pointed at social media platforms and online forums — where right-wing extremists were openly planning the attack for weeks.
The posts, in which the US President’s supporters described how they would break into the Capitol, have prompted questions over why violent content is often unregulated on social media sites. Facing growing backlash, Facebook, Google and Twitter are now cracking down heavily on social media users and platforms sharing inflammatory content online.
From Google suspending pro-Trump social media site Parler, to President Trump being permanently banned from Twitter — the big tech firms appear to be leaving no stone unturned. But experts warn that the ongoing social media purge may be too little too late.
Here is a look at how social media platforms responded to the Capitol Hill riots
Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account
Twitter permanently suspended President Trump’s account on Friday, citing “risk of further incitement of violence” following the attack on Capitol Hill. In a blog post, the social media platform said that two of the president’s tweets, posted after the riots, glorified violence and were thus in violation of company policy.
Tweeting from his official government account hours later, President Trump said that he would not be silenced. “Twitter is not about FREE SPEECH. They are all about promoting a Radical Left platform where some of the most vicious people in the world are allowed to speak freely,” he wrote.
“As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me — and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me.”
Soon after, Twitter deleted his tweets from the official @POTUS account and also suspended his campaign account @TeamTrump, Reuters reported. Before his account was banned, President Trump had 88.7 million followers and followed 51 people.
Soon after the siege of Capitol Hill, the social networking site had temporarily suspended Trump’s account and threatened to permanently ban it if he continued to share inflammatory content. But the President was back on Twitter late Thursday, when he shared a video message which seemed to be aimed at quelling tensions after the pandemonium that took place earlier.
Google pulls Trump-friendly social media app Parler from Play Store
Google has removed the social media platform Parler, which is widely used by supporters of President Trump, from the Play Store for several posts that allegedly promoted violent acts. Plans for the riots that took place in Washington DC on Wednesday were widely shared on the platform.
Meanwhile, Apple gave the service 24 hours to submit a detailed plan on how it would moderate its content, the Guardian reported.
Parler’s Chief executive, John Matze, accused the two Silicon Valley companies of attacking civil liberties and applying rules to Parler that it would not apply to itself. He founded the company in 2018 as a “free-speech driven” alternative to mainstream social media platforms.
Several right-leaning social media users turned to platforms like Parler and messaging app Telegram after platforms like Twitter and Facebook started to clampdown on violent political comments.
YouTube removes several videos posted on Trump’s channel
On Friday, Google-owned YouTube took down several videos that President Trump had shared on his YouTube Channel, warning that any channel which is found to post false claims three times within a period of 90 days would be removed from the video platform.
“Over the last month, we’ve removed thousands of videos which spread misinformation claiming widespread voter fraud changed the result of the 2020 election, including several videos that President Trump posted on Wednesday to his channel,” Google said in a statement.
YouTube has removed nearly all the videos of Trump’s rally on Wednesday, where he allegedly encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol and stall the certification process.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat suspend Trump’s accounts at least till inauguration
Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that President Trump’s accounts would be blocked at least for the remainder of his term, until inauguration day on January 20.
“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 post shared on Thursday. Trump’s account on Facebook-owned photo sharing app instagram was also suspended.
The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining…
Photo-sharing app Snapchat also took action against the President and locked his account.
TikTok removes videos of Trump inciting supporters, blocks #StormTheCapitol
TikTok has announced that it will remove all videos of President Trump’s controversial speech, where he allegedly incited his supporters to storm the Capitol, as they violate the company’s misinformation policy.
“Hateful behaviour and violence have no place on TikTok,” the company said in a statement, according to a report by TechCrunch. “Content or accounts that seek to incite, glorify, or promote violence violate our Community Guidelines and will be removed.”
The platform also blocked a few hashtags linked to the riots, including #StormTheCapitol and #PatriotParty.
FBI uses social media to track down rioters
In the aftermath of the Capitol Hill attack, the US’ Department of Justice and FBI are using social media to try and identify those involved in the incident. On Friday, the FBI shared a tweet calling for tip-offs to help the agency identify “individuals instigating violence in Washington, D.C.”
The FBI is seeking to identify individuals instigating violence in Washington, D.C. We are accepting tips and digital media depicting rioting or violence in and around the U.S. Capitol on January 6. If you have information, visit https://t.co/buMd8vYXzH.
— FBI (@FBI) January 7, 2021
The agency urged people to share photographs, videos or posts that could be relevant and help them locate the culprits. Recently, the FBI was able to arrest a man named Richard Barnett from Arkansas who was photographed sitting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, after he broke into it and stole some of her belongings.
According to Washington DC police, at least 68 people have been arrested so far in connection with the Capitol protests.