The social media fallout from the Capitol riots

Capitol Riots

SAN FRANCISCO (NewsNation Now) — From Twitter to Facebook and even Pinterest, mainstream social media companies are cutting ties with President Donald Trump after his supporters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Supporters say he is only using his freedom of speech and questioning if the suspensions are legal.

There was an increased police presence outside of Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on Monday, following the company’s permanent ban of Trump’s personal account.

Twitter permanently suspended the @realDonaldTrump account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” last Friday night, cutting him off from more than 88 million followers.

In a statement, Twitter said in part: After close review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence. In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action.”

Trump released a statement in response to Twitter: “I predicted this would happen. We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the future. We will not be SILENCED!” 

In addition, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit and Pinterest made similar moves.

Matt Schruer, president of the Computer & Communication Industry Association, said these social media giants are simply “exercising their own speech rights.”

“Recall that free speech isn’t speech free from consequences. It means speech free from government consequences. And here it’s a government speaker who is the actor,” Schruer said. “So when digital services take content offline that they regard is inciting violence and thereby violating their terms of service, they’re exercising their own speech rights in saying, we don’t want our users and the public at large be affected by this content which violates our policies and arguably the law.”

Many Trump supporters have turned to the far-right app called Parler to share their support of Trump. It calls itself an alternative to other bigger sites. But even that app, is being cut off from by Amazon, Google and Apple stores, for claims that Parler owners do not go far enough to stop violent rhetoric. 

Schruer said in doing so, the content platforms that carried Parler’s app and website are “well within their legal rights.

“Section 230 is a legal protection that Congress enacted to ensure that digital media services had the flexibility and the legal certainty to moderate actions, users and behavior on their services to protect other users and the public at large from all kinds of misconduct. Section 230 protects decisions to take down content so that services aren’t sued by bad actors who get kicked off the platform. And it also protects services from suit when they decide to leave content up to ensure that controversial but lawful speech isn’t heckled offline by abuse of legal process,” Schreurs explained.

Parler CEO John Matze told news outlets that his social media company has been dropped by virtually all of its business alliances after Amazon, Apple and Google ended their agreements with the social media service. Now, his company is preparing to sue.

Digital Marketer Emily Reeves Dean said the move to block the company is unprecedented and risky.

“We’ve seen Parler pop up specifically for the group of people that Trump caters to as a way for them to congregate around their like-minded ideas. And some other channels pop up like that; smaller communities very idea-driven or politically driven and that’s a risk.”

Emily Reeves Dean, digital marketer

She said although the companies have the right to ban users, they should expect people to leave the social media sites for doing so.

“I think that it’s a really bold move to take someone who is so popular and block them because you risk annoying and angering all the people that follow them,” Dean said.

The San Francisco Police Department is still monitoring Twitter’s headquarters. A spokesperson with the department said they are committed to ensuring the public’s right to First Amendment expressions of free speech in a safe manner. So far, there have been no reports of people Monday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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