The past 24 hours have contained no shortage of terrifying images and incredible headlines, and here’s one more: The President has been indefinitely banned/blocked from posting on the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook, until at least after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the next President on Jan. 20. That pronouncement comes from none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who wrote the following on his own page this morning. Here’s that statement in full:
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 other words, even Facebook is acknowledging that giving a platform to someone like Trump, in full demagogue meltdown mode, represents a danger to lives of people everywhere. Of course, one can’t really pat Facebook on the back too much—they’ve consistently found ways to rationalize allowing Trump to spew false information onto the web for years. In the process, they contributed to the growth of conspiracy theories and the radicalization of the American political right wing, which built a frightening cult of personality around Trump, who was rarely called out by social media companies on his falsehoods until recently. Those conspiracy theorists went into action yesterday, storming the U.S. Capitol and making Jan. 6, 2021 a date that will live in infamy in American history.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that Facebook and other social media networks would now like to wash their hands of the role they played in disseminating the propaganda that led to such a moment. Unfortunately, the damage has been done, but hopefully they’ll be able to limit the amount of damage Trump can do in the future. Perhaps Twitter should follow suit?