Facebook Chucked Its Own Rulebook to Ban Trump
The move is a reminder of social platforms’ power over online speech — and the inconsistency with which they wield it
After four years of accommodating, tolerating, and occasionally wrist-slapping Donald Trump, Facebook chose the morning after a riot breached the U.S. Capitol to suspend the outgoing president from its platform. Several smaller platforms, including Snapchat, Shopify, and Twitch, have taken similar steps, and more dominoes are likely to fall soon.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a Facebook post shortly before 11 a.m. on Thursday that both Facebook and Instagram have blocked Trump’s account. According to the post, the accounts will be blocked “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” Zuckerberg wrote:
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.
An insurrection at the Capitol certainly underscores the argument that Trump’s presence on Facebook and other major social networks constitutes a clear and present threat to American democracy. As such, booting him feels like the right call, even the obvious one. It ramps up pressure on Twitter to do the same, after Twitter initially got ahead of Facebook by temporarily suspending Trump for tweets that condoned the riots on Wednesday night.
Yet Facebook’s “indefinite” ban on Trump marks an overnight reversal of the policy on Trump and other political leaders that the social network has spent the past four years honing, justifying, and defending. The unprecedented move, which lacks a clear basis in any of Facebook’s previously stated policies, highlights for the millionth…