Social media giants Twitter and Facebook temporarily locked the accounts of US President Donald Trump, as they scrambled to crack down on his baseless claims about the US presidential elections after his supporters stormed the US Capitol in Washington, DC and temporarily forced a halt to proceedings.
Twitter hid and required the removal of three of Trump’s tweets “as a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington, DC,” after the president’s supporters attempted to force Congress to block the appointment of President-elect Joe Biden.
While urging his supporters to “go home”, Trump also praised the mob as “special” and telling them that they were “loved”.
“Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account,” Twitter officials said in a statement. The social media handle used by the president is followed by some 88 million people.
Twitter said Trump’s account would be locked for 12 hours and that if the offending tweets were not removed, “the account will remain locked”.
In a rapidly evolving sequence of events, Facebook and YouTube also took down videos posted by the president.
“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Facebook Vice President of Integrity Guy Rosen said in a tweet.
“We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s account on Instagram, with 24.5 million followers, remains active. Instagram is owned by Facebook.
YouTube also removed a Trump video that repeated his baseless attacks on the integrity of the election he lost in November, following its policy barring claims challenging election results.
“As the situation at the United States Capitol Building unfolds, our teams are working to quickly remove live streams and other content that violates our policies, including those against incitement to violence or regarding footage of graphic violence,” said YouTube spokesman Alex Joseph.
Facebook subsequently said it would search for and remove content which praised the storming of the Capitol or encouraged the violence.
The enormous social network said it would also seek to take down additional calls for protests, including peaceful ones, if they breached a curfew imposed in the US capital or any attempts to “restage” the storming of Congress, which a Facebook spokesman described as a “disgrace”.
“We prohibit incitement and calls for violence on our platform,” the spokesperson said. “We are actively reviewing and removing any content that breaks these rules.”
Facebook maintained that it was in contact with law enforcement officials and continued to enforce bans on the QAnon conspiracy group, militarised social movements and hate groups.
A #StormTheCapitol hashtag was blocked on both Facebook and Instagram, it said.
A police officer detains a pro-Trump protester during clashes at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results by the US Congress [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
Twitter’s initial actions were aimed at limiting the reach of offending tweets from Trump and others.
“We have been significantly restricting engagement with tweets labelled under our Civic Integrity Policy due to the risk of violence,” the Twitter support team said.
“This means these labelled tweets will not be able to be replied to, retweeted, or liked.”
A Trump video clip posted at the top of his official Twitter account was tagged with a note saying the claim of voter fraud was disputed and that the tweet could not be replied to, retweeted, or liked “due to a risk of violence”.
Rival social network Parler, which has been praised by Trump supporters, showed posts lauding the mob assault on the Capitol.
“Hope to see some of the DemonRat residences getting torched,” one user wrote.