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Facebook blocks Trump indefinitely following Capitol Hill violence

Facebook blocks Trump indefinitely following Capitol Hill violence


President Donald Trump addresses supporters on Wednesday in Washington, DC.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Facebook will “indefinitely” extend a block on Donald Trump’s account, saying the president’s posts are too risky in the wake of a harrowing attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the unprecedented move on Thursday, a day after rioters stormed the Capitol as Congress met inside to certify Joe Biden as the next US president.  

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. “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.”

Biden’s inauguration will take place on Jan. 20.

The ban, which followed an earlier 24-hour block on the president’s posts, represent Facebook’s strongest actions against Trump’s use of social media to spread misinformation, stir grievance and incite violence. The social media giant, which owns photo-sharing app Instagram, had previously limited itself to labelling the president’s comments on election fraud and arguing that his posts were of public interest.

“The current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” Zuckerberg said.

Read more: 25th Amendmen, if invoked, could remove Trump from power

Twitter also temporarily blocked Trump‘s account for the first time in the wake of the mayhem in Washington. The short-message service said his posts had violated its rules against interfering in elections or other civic processes. A Twitter spokesperson said Thursday that the social network is evaluating the situation in real time. 

The bans followed a wide-ranging push for the social networks to deal with the president’s posts, which have recently spread conspiracy theories and bogus claims of fraud in the 2020 election. University of Virginia law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Kara Swisher, Obama Foundation CTO Leslie Miley and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt were among high-profile figures urging Twitter to block Trump as Capitol Hill descended into chaos.

On Thursday, Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said the steps taken by Facebook and Twitter — as well as by YouTube — were “too late and not nearly enough” to curb the problem. 

“Disinformation and extremism researchers have for years pointed to broader network-based exploitation of these platforms,” Warner said in a statement. “These platforms have served as core organizing infrastructure for violent, far right groups and militia movements for several years now — helping them to recruit, organize, coordinate and in many cases (particularly with respect to YouTube) generate profits from their violent, extremist content.” 

On Thursday, Trump shared a statement via White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino that said an “orderly transition” of power would occur on Jan. 20. However, Trump also used the statement to note that he “totally” disagrees with the election’s outcome. He has yet to concede that he lost the election two months ago.

Also Thursday, the FBI posted on Facebook and Twitter to seek the public’s help in identifying those involved in the Capitol Hill riot.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Google-owned YouTube tightened a new policy that Trump’s channel violated a day earlier. This intensification of enforcement could accelerate his account’s termination if the channel continues to run afoul of the rule. 

Last month, YouTube instituted a policy to remove any new videos alleging that fraud altered the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election. On Wednesday, Trump’s channel posted a video that did just that. His video message urged supporters to “go home now” but also repeated false claims about election fraud. YouTube removed the video under its policy. But the policy, implemented last month, had a grace period lasting until Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. With the grace period, channels breaking the rule would have the offending video removed but faced no other penalties. 

YouTube said it has now ended the grace period, rather than waiting until Inauguration Day. Now, videos that violate that policy will be issued a “strike.” Channels are temporarily suspended from posting or livestreaming when they get strikes, and YouTube’s “three strike” system permanently bans channels with three violations in a 90-day period. 

“We apply our policies and penalties consistently, regardless of who uploads it,” YouTube tweeted.

CNET’s Joan E. Solsman contributed to this article. 

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