After yesterday’s chaos on Capitol Hill, the social networking giant has blocked President Trump on the grounds that the likely intent and result of his publications is incitement to violence.
On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg went on Facebook to announce the end of Trump’s reign, on the platform anyway.
Yesterday’s demonstration at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. turned into a storm on the Capitol itself by Trump supporters after a speech in which the president said „we will never give in.
In his release this morning, Zuckerberg noted that Trump had used his Facebook platform extensively to campaign, often delving into misinformation and conspiracy theories, especially since the November election. Following yesterday’s violence, Zuckerberg said that „the current context is now fundamentally different, involving the use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.
The speech that preceded the mafia indictment in the congressional chambers yesterday saw Trump criticize and claim that big tech companies „rigged the election. Trump also identified the media as „the biggest problem we have, as far as I’m concerned.
Ironically, Trump has often relied on Big Tech platforms such as Facebook and especially Twitter to circumvent the media, which is plagued by what he would identify as censorship, but what is really the basic journalistic process of fact checking? Twitter removed several of Trump’s tweets yesterday when violence in Washington escalated and finally blocked his account, but only for 12 hours. Although the blockade ended several hours ago, his timeline remains inactive.
Congress has called on the executive directors of Facebook and Twitter to appear before them with increasing frequency over the past year because of the enormous role these platforms play in the national debate. Democrats have accused the platforms of spreading misinformation, while Republicans say they censor Republicans.
In the Friday hearings before the election, Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee tried to intimidate Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey on Twitter not to pull Trump’s posts. Many in the committee joined a chorus of attacks on Section 230, a widely misunderstood part of the Communications Decency Act that exempts websites hosting user-generated content from full legal responsibility for that content, although content moderation standards remain a requirement.
In fact, it was in the hopes of repealing Section 230 that Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act two weeks ago. Congress overruled that veto, however, for the first time under Trump.
After Congress returned to session last night, most of Trump’s base of allies were intimidated. Even Kelly Loeffler, who earlier that morning had lost a runoff vote in the Georgia Senate that had been largely based on her idolatry of Trump, retracted earlier promises to challenge the results in the President’s style.
Ultimately, Facebook’s sudden shift to Trump may be more pragmatic than idealistic. The firm may have noticed that, after those elections in Georgia, Democrats will control the House, Senate and White House, bodies that will likely continue to hold Facebook accountable.
Facebook shares were trading at $268.76 at the time of publication, barely moving since Zuckerberg’s announcement this morning.