Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today that President Donald Trump will not have access to his Facebook or Instagram accounts until he is out of office on Jan. 20. The move comes after significant internal and external pressure on social media companies to take decisive action against the president for appearing to incite an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote.
The Facebook chief said that Trump’s “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 U.S. and around the world.”
Facebook removed Trump’s rule-breaking posts on Wednesday after the company “judged that their effect—and likely their intent—would be to provoke further violence.”
The social network previously announced Wednesday night that Trump would be locked out of his account for 24 hours as punishment, but Zuckerberg said Thursday “the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
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Facebook was not alone in taking action against Trump. On Wednesday evening, Twitter also removed certain tweets from the president and locked him out of his account for 12 hours. Snapchat indefinitely locked Trump out of his account; last summer, it had stopped promoting his account on its Discover platform. Google-owned YouTube removed a video that Trump posted, but did not say whether it would take action against his account.
Amazon-owned streaming service Twitch also disabled Trump’s account Thursday, though they didn’t fully ban him. “Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the President’s incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence,” said spokesperson Brielle Villablanca.
The move from Facebook is a severe about-face. The company has been hesitant to enforce its own rules against the president and, notably, did not consider his threats against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis this summer a violation of its policy against inciting violence. After Twitter’s tougher stance, outcry from its own employees and a much-publicized advertiser boycott this summer, Facebook tightened its rules and its stance on Trump’s account.
BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook employees were incensed Wednesday and spoke out against the company on its internal message board, to which Facebook managers responded by restricting the ability to comment. Facebook has also been a hotbed for election misinformation, mostly in “Stop the Steal” Facebook groups, despite some company action to remove them.
Zuckerberg has long played nice with Trump’s rule-breaking posts, claiming he does not want the social network to be the “arbiter of truth.” But Trump’s comments on the platform Wednesday, in one of the final flashpoints of his presidency, pushed the controversial CEO to take action.
“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,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”