By Barbara Ortutay And David Klepper, The Associated Press on January 6, 2021.
In an unprecedented step, Twitter suspended the account of President Donald Trump for 12 hours Wednesday after he repeatedly posted false accusations about the election after his supporters stormed the Capitol following a Trump rally.
Twitter said that future violations by Trump would result in a permanent suspension.
Earlier in the day, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all removed a short video from Trump in which he urged those supporters Wednesday to “go home” while also repeating falsehoods about the integrity of the presidential election.
Trump posted that video more than two hours after protesters entered the Capitol, interrupting lawmakers meeting in an extraordinary joint session to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice-president of integrity, said on Twitter Wednesday that the video was removed because it “contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Rosen said on Twitter.
Twitter initially left the video up but blocked people from being able to retweet it or comment on it. Only later in the day did the platform delete it entirely.
Trump opened his video saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.”
After repeating false claims about voter fraud affecting the election, Trump went on to say: “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Republican lawmakers and previous administration officials had begged Trump to give a statement to his supporters to quell the violence. The statement came as authorities struggled to take control of a chaotic situation at the Capitol that led to the evacuation of lawmakers and the death of at least one person.
Trump has harnessed social media – especially Twitter – as a potent tool for spreading misinformation about the election. Wednesday’s riot only increased calls to ban Trump from the platform.
“The President has promoted sedition and incited violence,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “More than anything, what is happening right now at the Capitol is a direct result of the fear and disinformation that has been spewed consistently from the Oval Office.”