SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While President Donald Trump regained access to his Twitter account Thursday, Facebook said it was extending a block of his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely.
Twitter unlocked the account Thursday afternoon and the president posted a brief video from the White House in which he acknowledged his administration would end on Jan. 20 with the inauguration of President-elect Biden. He also denounced Wednesday’s deadly Capitol riot without acknowledging that his speech to supporters had instigated the insurrection.
Trump said he is “outraged” by the “violence, lawlessness and mayhem” on Wednesday. The president failed to condemn the violence as it was happening on.
A day after the chaos of the attack on Capitol Hill, Trump said, “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
Earlier Thursday, the head of Menlo Park-based social media giant Facebook said he believes “the risks of allowing President Trump to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post, “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 said Facebook would extend the block for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.
Following Wednesday’s insurrection and rioting by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol, both Facebook and Twitter blocked the president’s accounts, with Twitter temporarily locking his account after Trump issued several inflammatory tweets. Twitter said the platform “required the removal of three @realDonaldTrump Tweets” that violated Twitter’s “Civic Integrity” policy.
Subsequent posts said that the president’s account would be suspended for 12 hours once the tweets were removed and that the account would stay locked if the posts were not removed and further policy violations “will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account.
Twitter had earlier flagged the president’s video message to his rioting supporters in the nation’s capitol to go home Wednesday, citing its disputed claims of election fraud and the possibility it might incite violence.
San Francisco-based Twitter flagged the post as it has been flagging tweets by the president and others making unfounded claims of voter fraud since before the November election. It additionally disabled user capability to reply, like or retweet the video message “due to a risk of violence.”
Twitter later made the video unavailable on the platform. At least two subsequent tweets by the president, one making a claim of “a sacred landslide victory” were also made unavailable.
Facebook and YouTube also took down the video in which President Trump addressed his supporters.
Social media companies have been trying to tackle misinformation since it was learned that Russians bankrolled thousands of fake political ads during the 2016 elections to sow discord among Americans.
Trump has repeatedly harnessed the power of social media to spread falsehoods about election integrity and the results of the presidential race. Platforms like Facebook have occasionally labeled or even removed some of his posts, but the overall response has failed to satisfy a growing number of critics who say the platforms have enabled the spread of dangerous misinformation.
In light of Wednesday’s riot, however, Zuckerberg said a more aggressive approach is needed.
“The current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” he wrote.
David Greene, chief civil liberties officer of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the restrictions by the social media companies don’t run afoul of U.S. law, because they are all privately owned.
“So they don’t violate the president’s legal rights by locking his accounts, freezing his accounts or shutting down his accounts. In fact, they are exercising their own first amendment rights,” Greene told KPIX 5.
Ian Sherr of CNET says a moment of reckoning for social media companies happened after Wednesday’s armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“There’s no question that Facebook and Twitter recognize what they have been a part of here. The fact that they took extraordinary steps for them, it’s huge. For a lot of us, it’s like the last thing at the eleventh hour,” Sherr said.
He believes the Facebooks and Twitters of the world may soon come to the same policy that the CEO of Reddit once did.
“He realized that in the debate of social media and free speech he’d been technically correct to allow all of this to happen in the name of free speech, but he was not morally correct,” explained Sherr.
Andria Borba contributed to this story.
© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.