By: Victoria Dozer
If you are an American with a smartphone, you are no doubt familiar with Donald Trump’s internet rage. On numerous social media platforms, Trump has maintained a never ending stream of hateful and somewhat unintelligible statements throughout his presidency. However, the true power and influence behind his dangerous rhetoric became apparent on January 6; Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington D.C. in protest of Congress certifying Biden’s electoral votes. Trump’s inflammatory tweets claiming widespread voter fraud and public denial of Joe Biden’s recent election win incited the egregious violence. In response to the insurrection, and after years of Trump’s unrestrained tweeting and posting, Big Tech decided to make some changes.
Twitter Leads the Charge
For months, we have seen Twitter flag Trump's claims of election fraud as misinformation. But following the violence on January 6, Twitter officials warned Trump that any further violations of Twitter guidelines could result in restrictions. The same day, Twitter temporarily suspended Trump's personal account, but reinstated it shortly after. However, Trump seemed to pay no mind to the platform’s warnings and continued to tweet erratically to his supporters.
Two tweets in particular were found to be in violation of Twitter’s Glorification of Violence policy: In reference to the rioters at the Capitol, Trump tweeted, “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” on January 8. Later in the day, Trump posted, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”, referencing Joe Biden’s presidential win.
That same day, Twitter released a statement claiming that, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account… we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Twitter further elaborated on how Trump’s referral to rioters as “American Patriots” and insistence that they would be “safe” were declarations in support of violence. They additionally considered his public refusal to participate in a peaceful transfer of power to be dangerous rhetoric. As a result, @realDonaldTrump was permanently banned from Twitter.
However, this also did not stop Donald Trump. While his personal account was banned, there were many avenues through which he could vent on Twitter. Trump (or an official speaking on his behalf) attempted to tweet four times from the @POTUS Twitter account, but the posts were quickly deleted by the platform. As a result, Twitter suspended the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts to prevent Trump’s future posting. However, Twitter has not stated that these accounts are permanently banned, most likely to ensure that they can be used by future White House administrations.
Facebook Follows Suit
After Twitter suspended Donald Trump’s account on Wednesday, January 6, Facebook also publicly recognized the President’s dangerous online presence. However, Facebook’s approach was not so definite. Instead of a permanent ban, Trump’s Facebook account was suspended indefinitely, at least until the end of his presidential term on January 20. The suspension also applied to Trump’s Instagram account. The platform’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg released a statement on his Facebook page condemning Trump’s misuse of social media and explaining that, “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
Other Platforms Take Action
Snapchat also took action against Trump following the events at the Capitol on January 6. But Snapchat is no stranger to censoring Trump's outrageous behavior. In June, amid the height of Black Lives Matter protesting, Snapchat removed Trump’s account from their Discover feature. “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover,” Snap Inc explained in a statement shortly after the ban. The action came with threats from Trump officials and supporters, as well as a drop in stock value. As of Wednesday, January 6, Trump’s Snapchat account was reviewed for glorification of violence and spread of misinformation, and ultimately became permanently locked.
Shopify, an E-commerce website that previously sold Trump merchandise, joined the storm of bannings on January 6. The site prohibits shops from selling merchandise affiliated with violent people or organizations. Shopify decided that Donald Trump violated these guidelines and his merchandise could not be sold on the site. The platform permanently removed Trump-affiliated shops such as the official shop for the Trump Organization, TrumpStore.com, and Trump’s campaign shop, shop.donaldjtrump.com.
Platforms Target Dangerous Content Altogether
As of last month, Youtube began cracking down on videos that supported fraud conspiracies concerning the 2020 presidential election. Originally, videos that alleged such conspiracies were simply taken down, but the channels that posted them were otherwise unchanged. There was a grace period for channels that violated these Youtube guidelines, allowing them to avoid altogether removal. The grace period was said to end on Inauguration Day.
On Wednesday, January 6, Donald Trump had posted a video supporting claims of fraud and the video was therefore subject to removal by Youtube. By Thursday, Youtube released a tweet explaining new rule changes. Instead of a grace period, Youtube would be implementing a “strike” system. Any videos that supported conspiracies of voter fraud would receive a “strike” and the channel would be temporarily suspended. However, if a channels received three “strikes” within a 90-day period, the entire channel would be banned from Youtube’s platform. In Youtube’s Twitter statement, they reported that, “We apply our policies and penalties consistently, regardless of who uploads it” and singled out Trump’s misuse of the platform.
Lastly, but certainly not least notable, Apple, Google, and Amazon decided to delete their app Parler. The app marketed itself as a “free speech” alternative to other social media sites, but has mostly attracted numerous Trump supporters, conspiracy theorists, and right wing extremists. As platforms like Facebook and Twitter began to notice and restrict some conservative misinformation, the app grew incredibly popular among the political right. In an attempt to squander some dangerous content, Apple and Google took Parler off of both app stores and Amazon suspended it indefinitely from its service. While the action was deemed unfair by Parler’s chief executive, John Matze, Apple tells users that the removal occurred because “there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity”.
It’s clear that numerous other tech platforms agree.
It is apparent that the riots at the US Capitol left their mark on the internet's most prominent tech platforms. The media power of Donald Trump and affiliated right-wing conspiracy groups proved dangerous, so it is no surprise that social media giants felt the pressures of responsibility and action against such content. Thankfully, action is being taken and only those within listening range will be subject to Trump's rage.