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Donald Trump Suspended from His Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Accounts After His Supporters Storm Capitol

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Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. Source: Gage Skidmore (Wikimedia) (Cropped, resized)

Donald Trump, the outgoing president of the USA, Facebook has on Thursday night decided to extend the block they have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks following the violence that broke out in the US Capitol on Wednesday.

Initially, yesterday morning Trump was locked out of his Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook for 24-hours and Twitter account for 12-hours. Later in the night, Mark Zuckerberg issued a statement where he pointed out that the “shocking events of the last 24 hours” have defined that in his remaining time in office, his intentions are only to “undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power” to the upcoming President Joe Biden. Hence, he said it is a risk “too great” to allow Trump using the services of the social media giant.

In the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, one person was fatally shot while three more succumbed to their injuries.

The Congress was scheduled to count electoral votes and officially declare the winner of the presidential election on Wednesday.

Following the historic twin victory of the Democrats in Georgia, Trump on Wednesday addressed a “Save America March” rally, claiming that a “fraudulent election” was held and pledged never to concede.

“We are gonna walk down to the Capitol,” he urged the crowd, “to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” he is heard saying in a video released by the BBC. Soon after this, demonstrators broke into the building, where Senators and Congressmen and women were debating.

In a viral video following the outbreak of the violence, Trump is seen urging the mob to “go home” and reiterating that “there was an election that was stolen from us”, legitimising his claims of “a landslide election” besides telling the angry mob “we love you”.

While the violence was taking place in the US Capitol, Trump tweeted: “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

In one of the tweets, which are now blocked, which Trump tweeted as the violence unfolded, read, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

Time and again, Trump has made false claims and tried to spread misinformation regarding the elections, after losing the presidential race in November 2020. Once, he and his supporters accused state officials of not investigating in Georgia. In another incident, Trump claimed that his votes were deleted by the Dominion Voting Systems and that fake ballots were stuffed into suitcases in a centre in Atlanta. In the Pennsylvania elections, he claimed that election officials had illegally handled the ballots, violating the state election law and falsely claimed that Vice President Mike Pence has the power to reject state electors in the Electoral College.

Steps taken by Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, announced on Thursday that Trump had been blocked on Instagram.

After repeated warnings to Trump from Twitter to take down his tweets and videos encouraging the rioters and their violence in the Capitol, Twitter suspended his account for 12 hours to prevent “future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account”.

For the first time, social media giants Twitter and Facebook and Instagram have taken the extreme step of suspending Trump’s account. Facebook made the announcement through Twitter and also wrote on its website: “We removed from Facebook and Instagram the recent video of President Trump speaking about the protests and his subsequent post about the election results. We made the decision that on balance these posts contribute to, rather than diminish, the risk of ongoing violence.”

On removing the posts and videos, the social media giant wrote: “At this point they represent promotion of criminal activity which violates our policies.”

Facebook also mentioned that it is “appalled by the violence at the Capitol today,” and is removing content that carry “calls to bring weapons to locations across the US — not just in Washington but anywhere in the US — including protests”.

Interestingly, as per a December 2020 Wall Street Journal report, Facebook was hesitant and fearful in taking down or removing hate groups, such as the Bajrang Dal and a few others, which promote hate speeches and communal violence in India as they think it could be a threat for their staff in India and might risk the financial prospects in the country.

An investigative report filed by The New York Times along with The Guardian and The Observer of London in March 2020 showed documents obtained from inside Cambridge Analytica that contained data owned by Robert Mercer, a right-wing donor. The documents were proof that Stephen K Bannon (White House’s chief strategist in the first seven months of Trump’s administration) was the board member of the firm used data improperly obtained from Facebook to build voter profiles. Following this news, Facebook was pushed into its biggest crises ever.

The Office of the Washington DC Mayor claimed that Trump continues to “fan rage and violence contending that the Presidential election is invalid” and hence has issued a line-up of rules for the Extension of the Public Emergency till January 21, 2021.

The Mayor has ordered all the departments of the District of Columbia to be prepared with evacuation, sheltering, aid, food, funding, use or sale of clothing, fuel and other commodities or any kind of expenditures incurred for all kinds of emergency management along with a reduction of business hours to keep public gathering off the streets in times of curfew.

How the US Capitol violence was handled

Wednesday’s incident saw a far lighter deployment of security in and around the building. According to The Guardian report, after Mayor of Washington Muriel Bowser made a request, 340 guardsmen were activated in advance, of which 115 were on duty at one time and the DC and Virginia national guard were only deployed in significant numbers after the Capitol had been breached.

Reacting to the incident, actor Chris Evans tweeted: “Just think of the carnage had they not been white.”

America was witness to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests a block away from the White House against the death of George Floyd, who died in 2020 after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. The protestors, mostly Black, had no intention of breaking the security, but were charged up by over 5,000 national guard troops, federal agencies, Washington Police and the US Park police along with helicopters, teargas shells, batons and horses used to clear blocks.

Reactions

“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Former USA president Barack Obama also issued a statement on the violence.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she will give details later on being barricaded for hours in the Capitol. “For now, we must focus on task at hand: to preserve the integrity of our democracy, hold accountable those responsible for their attempts to subvert our nation’s elections and shred our Constitution apart.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tweeted: “Democracy – the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob. Our thoughts are with everyone who is as devastated as we are by the events of today. I have no doubt democracy will prevail.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the incident on Twitter.

“Our democracy is under unprecedented assault- an assault on the Capitol itself, an assault on the people’s representatives, assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people’s business” said President-elect Joe Biden.

Biden called on President Trump to “go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege”.

On Thursday, the House, along with the Senate, declared Biden as the winner of the US presidential race. The public ceremony for the inauguration of Biden as the 46th USA president will take place on January 20.

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