On Wednesday, after numerous right-wing mobs stormed the Capitol Building, Donald Trump, holed up in The White House watching the mayhem he inspired unfold, issued a minute-long video statement on Twitter. In it, the soon-to-be-former president of the United States half-heartedly condemned the rioters' acts of domestic terrorism and insurrection while continuing to insist the election was fraudulent.
Twitter has since affixed a label to the tweeted video, noting that "this claim of election fraud is disputed, and this tweet cannot be replied to, retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence." It's a confusing move by Twitter, however, as the video can still be shared with the "quote tweet" feature. Still, it shows that Jack Dorsey's platform is desperately attempting to work out how to deal with an account that should have been suspended years ago, and which has used Twitter to incite violence, sow disinformation, and encourage today's disgraceful events.
In the video, Trump can be heard saying, "I know your pain. I know you're hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us and it was a landslide election, and everyone knows it. Especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order. We don't want anyone hurt. It's a very tough period of time."
Twitter intervenes — In the latter half of the video, Trump is heard calling the presidential election of 2020 "fraudulent" and repeatedly sympathizes with his fan base over the election results. At one point, Trump says, "Go home. We love you. You're very special."
Without specifying a particular group, the outgoing president also says that rioters can see "how others" are treated, presumably by law enforcement authorities. If you're feeling a bout of deja vu, you might recall how Trump empathized with far-right, Neo-Nazi rioters in Virginia, noting that they were "very fine people" in 2017. He then defended those remarks in 2019. We've known for a while he has a type.
This isn't the first time that Trump has been met with punitive measures from major social media platforms... but as usual, it's too little, way too late. In the past, Twitter and Facebook have slapped fact-check-labels on the President's most demonstrably false or incendiary tweets and posts, but both platforms have let his vitriol and baseless accusations continue to be disseminated on their services. Facebook, in particular, was routinely poor at reining in Trump's tirades.
Rabid dogs get muzzled — Both services ought to have muzzled Trump ages ago. Both chose not to because their business models are predicated on achieving maximum engagement, and there are few things better for it than the rants of a megalomaniacal, former reality star with a persecution complex and nothing left to lose.
Additionally, there have been suspensions of accounts that mimicked Trump's posts, while his were allowed to persist. Despite four years of watching the events that led to today's attempted coup unfold, Twitter and Facebook continue to give Trump a mouthpiece, despite his incessant violations of their terms of service. They should delete his accounts. They won't. Because protecting democracy and defending sense and reason don't make them money like broadcasting tyranny does.
UPDATE (6:00 p.m. ET): The vice president of integrity at Facebook, Guy Rosen, has issued a statement on Twitter regarding today's events. Facebook has removed Trump's clip. "This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump's video," Rosen tweeted. "We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence."
UPDATE (6:31 p.m. ET): Twitter has deleted Trump's tweet including the video, along with a followup that stated: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"