Twitter, Facebook Take Down Trump Accounts; Parler Put On Notice
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Twitter announced Friday it had permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s account (@realdonaldtrump) over concerns about the potential for a “further incitement of violence.”
Both tweets came earlier Friday:
“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!!!,” one stated.
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” stated the other.
According to the statement, Twitter explained both tweets “must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks.”
The tweets came two days after Pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol that led to the deaths of five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
“This sends a signal that from the top down now that isn’t going to be accepted,” said Avery Holton, associate professor and associate chair of the University of Utah’s Department of Communication.
Not everybody was happy.
The move was even blasted by some Republicans who seemed to distance themselves from the president’s actions and statements in recent days.
“Twitter may ban me for this but I willingly accept that fate,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Your decision to permanently ban President Trump is a serious mistake. The Ayatollah can tweet, but Trump can’t. Says a lot about the people who run Twitter.”
Holton said he saw the move as more than just an action in a single case.
“I think that now what we’re seeing is these social media companies finally taking accountability,” Holton said. “There has been sort of an upward trickle, if you will, of Facebook and Twitter and Facebook through Instagram trying these things out.”
Twitter and Facebook have commonly flagged content and suspended individual user accounts for content deemed to be against their terms of service.
The associate professor, who specializes in the areas of digital and social media, said the action against President Trump is a bold statement that nobody is above the rules.
“They can, as we’re seeing now, take down information that’s misleading, that’s false, that incites violence, that promotes riotous behavior and seditious behavior,” Holton said. “The punishment in this case for President Trump is removal permanently from Twitter and then at least for several weeks from Facebook.”
On Thursday, Facebook announced it was blocking the President from posting to his accounts through at least the end of his term.
“That’s experimentation afforded by Section 230, and I think we’re going to see a lot more discussion about Section 230 in the months and years that follow,” Holton said.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of … any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
“They’re taking that experimental freedom that they have with their platforms and really making a stance,” said Holton.
Some conservatives railed against Section 230 on social media Friday.
“#Section230 reform is do or die,” tweeted Indiana Rep. Jim Banks. “Big Tech is trying to strangle the Right and we must fight back!”
Also Friday, Google suspended popular conservative social media alternative Parler from the Google Play app store until the platform adds moderation policies.
Apple, according to reports, gave Parler 24 hours Friday to create those moderation policies or else it would get booted from that app store as well.
Holton said he could see social media platforms and tech companies continue to take a more top-down approach in the future.
“Whether or not you can say this is too little, too late, it’s something and it’s something big,” Holton said. “What it does say, again — words matter, information matters, we won’t stand for inciting violence or inciting seditious behavior any longer.”
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