Twitter removed three tweets from the account of President Donald Trump on Wednesday and suspended his account for 12 hours after he continued to push conspiracy theories about the election after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.
The company also warned that further violations of its rules “will result in permanent suspension” of Trump’s Twitter account.
One of the tweets included a video of Trump repeating unfounded claims that the election was taken from him and encouraging his supporters to disperse after violence erupted at the Capitol. He said that law and order were needed and that he loved his supporters.
Facebook and YouTube also removed the video from Trump’s accounts. Facebook said it would be blocking the president’s account from posting for 24 hours due to two policy violations.
Twitter removed Trump’s post after initially having prohibited it from being retweeted or replied to. It had added a tag to the post that read, “This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can’t be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence.” Twitter also removed a subsequent tweet by Trump.
Twitter said through one of its company accounts that if Trump removes the tweets, his account will be unlocked. Trump’s official government account on Twitter, which he doesn’t use as frequently as his personal account, remains active.
The removals are dramatic steps given past hesitancy to curb the speech of political figures, such as the president. Twitter and Facebook have placed fact-check labels on some of Trump’s posts in the past when they included information that violated their rules, and Twitter has temporarily locked his personal and campaign accounts before.
YouTube said in a statement that the video violated “policies regarding content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome.” Facebook said: “The violent protests in the Capitol today are a disgrace. We prohibit incitement and calls for violence on our platform. We are actively reviewing and removing any content that breaks these rules.”
Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, tweeted: “This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video. We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
Rosen reiterated the sentiment in a company blog post that said Facebook’s leadership team was “appalled by the violence at the Capitol” and outlined the steps the platform would be taking to moderate related content. Among them are the removal of videos and photos from those who stormed the Capitol. He also said the video was removed from Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Twitter’s safety team put out a statement saying the “calls to violence” were a violation of its rules.
“In regard to the ongoing situation in Washington, D.C., we are working proactively to protect the health of the public conversation occurring on the service and will take action on any content that violates the Twitter Rules,” the statement said. “In addition, we have been significantly restricting engagement with Tweets labeled under our Civic Integrity Policy due to the risk of violence. This means these labeled Tweets will not be able to be replied to, Retweeted, or liked.”
The video was tweeted at 4:17 p.m., about three hours after Trump told his supporters to march on the Capitol.
Although social media platforms acted to remove the video, several prominent voices within the tech world were quick to sound off about it and the actions of the social media companies, including venture investor Chris Sacca and Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer at Facebook.
“You’ve got blood on your hands, @jack and Zuck,” Sacca tweeted, addressing Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “For four years you’ve rationalized this terror. Inciting violent treason is not a free speech exercise. If you work at those companies, it’s on you too. Shut it down.”
Stamos tweeted: “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. There are no legitimate equities left and labeling won’t do it.”
The situation also appeared to exacerbate some tension within Twitter about how to handle the president.
In an internal company Slack room, several Twitter employees who previously defended the decision to keep Trump’s account on the platform shifted their opinion after today’s protests. The Slack room allows for employees to speak with the team in Twitter who makes site integrity and moderation decisions.
“I’ve been part of the ‘he’s the president, we can’t deactivate him’ crowd for 4 years now but even I have to say, I feel complicit allowing this to happen and I would like to see him deactivated immediately,” one employee wrote, according to conversations seen by NBC News.
As it became clear Trump would not use Twitter to unreservedly tamp down protests, some Twitter employees called their previous stance of applying warning labels to the president’s incendiary tweets a “mistake.”
“If this isn’t enough to make us think our previous policy was a mistake, what would be?” said one employee.”I think ‘don’t foment coups’ is a fairly bright line to draw [to be honest]'” added another.
Author: Ahiza García-Hodges,