Culture

All the ways Big Tech is clamping down on extremists after the Capitol siege

Following an assault on the Capitol last week, Big Tech is taking a few unprecedented steps against Trump and his most extreme supporters.

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The relationship between President Trump and Big Tech companies has been souring for some time, so when hundreds of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last week, assaulting police officers, destroying government property, and interrupting the mostly ceremonial process of the Senate counting electoral votes, the fallout was pretty swift.

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While some of those actions have centered on curbing rhetoric coming directly from Trump, others have aimed at addressing pockets of the internet where Trump's most violent and extreme supporters have been spreading misinformation and plotting future attacks like the one this month.

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Here are all the ways Big Tech has responded...

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Twitter

Twitter has arguably been President Trump's platform of choice, which is why their decision to permanently boot him this month was particularly noteworthy. On Friday, January 8, Twitter released a lengthy explanation of its decision, citing multiple tweets containing misinformation about Trump's historic loss in the presidential election as evidence for his removal.

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Trump wasn't the only high profile politician to get booted off of Twitter following the Capitol attack. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell were both permanently nixed after promoting Qanon conspiracy theories about baseless election fraud. Twitter also targeted people like Ron Watkins who runs the message board 8kun (the revival of 8chan) where Qanon conspiracy theorists have been allowed to propagate misinformation.

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Facebook

Facebook followed suit on Twitter's move to ban Trump but stopped short of calling its decision permanent. Facebook has said that the ban will last "at least" until the end of Trump's presidency. Though a somewhat softer approach, Facebook has had a less antagonistic relationship with Trump compared to Twitter throughout the past several years, making its decision to indefinitely ban the President surprising nonetheless.

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"We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great... Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete."

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

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In addition to taking action against Trump, Facebook says it has also been searching for and removing content that praises the attack on the Capitol or any content calling for more violence or violating a curfew in Washington D.C.

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Apple

While Apple didn't have any reason to tackle Trumps rhetoric directly, it has taken steps in curbing an alternative social platform called Parler which exploded following the President's ban on Facebook and Twitter. On January 9, Apple removed Parler from the App Store after it failed to meet an ultimatum for increased content moderation.

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Google

Google also joined in on the Parler crackdown by removing the app from the Google Play store, urging the app's creators to institute "robust moderation practices for egregious content." Google pointed to Play store guidelines that put onus on platforms to deal with content that may incite violence.

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As we covered this past week, Parler has been awash in content calling for violence and played a role in allowing Trump supporters to organize an attack the Capitol. The platform has made a commitment to not moderate content under any circumstance, saying "In no case will Parler decide what will content [sic] be removed or filtered, or whose account will be removed, on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue."

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Snapchat

Though Snapchat has received far less attention than other social platforms when it comes to content moderation, on January 6, it also decided to "pause" Trump's ability to post. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat did not specify exactly what content lead to the decision, but we can safely assume that similar factors applied.

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"... we simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform.

Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO

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YouTube

YouTube joined other platforms in removing a pre-recorded video from President Trump if it wasn't being used for education or news. On January 8, YouTube also made the decision to remove Steve Bannon's "War Room" channel saying it violated its "strike" policy with a pair of unspecified videos.

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It's worth noting that while Big Tech companies have taken action across the board to curb violent extremism in the wake of the Capitol attack, critics have accused the actions of being too little and too late. After all, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been well-documented breeding grounds for misinformation and have even been connected to radicalization.

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Something tell us the role of content moderators is far from over.

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