Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be suspended at least through Inauguration Day in the wake of violence by the president’s supporters that erupted Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg said in a statement on his Facebook page, adding that the account could remain locked indefinitely.
“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.”
Twitter barred Trump from posting messages on its platform Wednesday for 12 hours for “repeated and severe violations” of the social media company’s civic integrity rules.
Twitter and Facebook had taken the unprecedented step of temporarily suspending Trump’s account on Wednesday as Trump continued to post inflammatory messages and make false accusations that the election was rigged in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. It was the most aggressive action the social media giants have taken against Trump.
Twitter ordered the removal Wednesday of three Trump tweets, including a video urging his supporters who stormed the Capitol to “go home” while continuing to make false claims about the elections. Twitter said the posts were voluntarily deleted from Trump’s account after the company threatened to extend the suspension.
Later Wednesday evening, Facebook said Trump would be barred from posting for 24 hours for two violations of its policies.
Syracuse University communications professor and social media expert Jennifer Grygiel told The Associated Press that Wednesday’s deadly violence is a direct result of Trump’s abuse of social media to spread falsehoods and said the social media companies should bear some responsibility for the violence.
“This is what happens,” Grygiel said. “We didn’t just see a breach at the Capitol. Social media platforms have been breached by the president repeatedly. This is disinformation. This was a coup attempt in the United States.”
The incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, Democrat Mark Warner, applauded Twitter and Facebook for their actions in a statement Thursday, but he also criticized them for not taking more stringent action much sooner.
“While I’m pleased to see social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube take long-belated steps to address the president’s sustained misuse of their platforms to sow discord and violence, these isolated actions are both too late and not nearly enough,” Warner said.
“Disinformation and extremism researchers have for years pointed to broader network-based exploitation of these platforms. As I have continually said, 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.”
YouTube has not taken any action to silence Trump. The Associated Press reported that YouTube said it removed Trump’s video, but it was still publicly accessible on Thursday.
The White House has not responded to the suspensions.