Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced the social network is suspending outgoing President Donald Trump's accounts on both Facebook and Instagram "indefinitely" due to his use of the platform to encourage protestors who yesterday stormed the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. It might also help that Democrats now control the Senate, and Zuckerberg would like to appease them as they go about deciding whether or not to break up his empire.
Zuckerberg's full statement follows below:
"The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.
His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world. We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence.
Following the certification of the election results by Congress, the priority for the whole country must now be to ensure that the remaining 13 days and the days after inauguration pass peacefully and in accordance with established democratic norms.
Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies. We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech. But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.
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."
Backing away fast — Zuckerberg says while Facebook has yet to determine how long the suspension of Trump's accounts will last, it will cover "at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete." It remains to be seen whether the company will be as enthusiastic and proactive when it comes to Trump-adjacent accounts, like those of his children. Ivanka Trump, for instance, yesterday called those who sought to occupy the U.S. Capitol "patriots" before deleting her post.
Yesterday, Facebook removed an incendiary video and subsequent post from Trump's accounts and suspended him for 24 hours, with rival Twitter following suit with its own deletions and a 12-hour ban, though not before the content had been able to spread far and wide. Snapchat also locked the President's account, having previously removed him from the service's "Discover" page in the middle of last year. Many pundits have called for the soon-to-be-former President to be entirely "de-platformed" due to his repeated violations of these private enterprises' terms of service.
Two weeks to go — In two week's time, Trump will no longer be the President of the United States, and will lose a host of privileges immediately, including many of those afforded him by social networks. Fortunately, it turns out the rants of a private (senior) citizen don't enjoy the same protections as those of a sitting head of state. However, there's plenty of room to argue social networks deserve ongoing and even more intense scrutiny for their role in allowing hate speech, baseless conspiracies, and calls to violence to proliferate on their services.
Facebook and Twitter are culpable in yesterday's attempted coup. Their respective hands-off approaches for the last four years are one of the reasons shirtless idiots wearing facepaint coordinated, carried out — and in some instances, livestreamed — an attack on the seat of American democracy with impunity, emboldened by the rants of failed-reality-star-turned-tyrant.
Anti-social media — By refusing to be the "arbiter of truth," Facebook has tacitly endorsed fantasists. It's enabled the ramblings of these people, who have only the vaguest of grasps on reality and thrive on conspiracies, to reach the ears of those most susceptible to them. It's time to unplug their bullhorns, muzzle their hounds, and send them fleeing to the likes of Gab and Parler where they can spout their gibberish at one another in peace while the adults in the room clean up their mess.