Donald Trump has been blocked from using his Facebook and Instagram accounts “indefinitely”, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced.
Making the statement via his own Facebook page, Zuckerberg’s move is in response to the violent scenes seen at the Capitol Building in the US capital of Washington DC on January 6.
Zuckerberg 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 US and around the world”, adding that the outgoing President is using the Facebook “platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.”
Facebook and Instagram will as a result put a block on activities from Donald Trump’s accounts for the next two weeks, minimum.
Zuckerberg’s statement in full follows below:
“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.
“His 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 US and around the world. We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect -- and likely their intent -- would be to provoke further violence.
“Following the certification of the election results by Congress, the priority for the whole country must now be to ensure that the remaining 13 days and the days after inauguration pass peacefully and in accordance with established democratic norms.
“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. 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.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. 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.”
In a speech at a rally in Washington, Trump encouraged his supporters to march on the heart of the US political establishment, the Capitol Building, as President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s election win was being ratified by the Senate. Hundreds made forceful entry to the historic location, leading to four deaths, including one Trump supporter who was shot by Capitol Police.
Trump’s presidency has been punctuated by his edicts made from social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, Trump’s page has almost 33 million likes, and reaches more than 35 million followers. On Twitter he reaches 88.7 million followers, not to mention those who view his content via retweets and shares. Though there are many other channels with which Trump can reach his supporters, this hugely diminishes the immediacy with which he previously could do so.
Of course, Zuckerberg’s move is not without benefit to Facebook. The tide is turning in Washington towards the new power of the Democratic party, led by Joe Biden. For Zuckerberg and the rest of Silicon Valley’s elite to enjoy a fruitful relationship during the coming term of office, it makes sense for the company to distance itself from Trump’s anarchic approach to democracy.
That Facebook and Zuckerberg choose to lay down heavier sanctions now, less than two weeks until the transition of power is made, rather than the soft approach it applied to the current President’s activities throughout his term, show that its future allegiances rely more on the future prosperity of the platform than any distinctive moral code.
All eyes will now be on Twitter, Trump’s preferred platform for rallying his online allies, to see if it will follow the lead set by Facebook and Zuckerberg.