Facebook and YouTube removed a video of President Donald Trump expressing love for a violent mob of supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced the evacuation of the Senate on Wednesday, but offered different reasons for taking action.
In a brief video message, the president had addressed supporters who had shattered windows, waved confederate flags and jeered at members of the media inside the Capitol on Wednesday just as lawmakers gathered to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
In the video, Trump repeats the false claim that the election was “stolen” and the outcome “fraudulent,” and at one point tells protesters “We love you, you’re very special.” About an hour after the video had been posted, Facebook removed the message, citing concerns that it would only stoke the flames of a violent uprising that by Wednesday evening had left one woman dead.
“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Guy Rosen, Facebook vice president of integrity, wrote in a tweet. “We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
A short time later, Facebook also deleted a text post published by Trump that urged protesters to “Go home with love & in peace” and to “remember this day forever!”
In a dispatch posted on the Facebook Newsroom blog, the platform clarified that the leadership team had been “appalled by the violence at the Capitol today,” and doubled down on the decision to remove Trump’s posts, adding that it would continue to add labels to posts across the platforms that “attempt to delegitimize the election results.”
In justifying the decision to remove the video, YouTube, on the other hand, cited a new policy instituted in December 2020 that forbids any type of content alleging that widespread voter fraud played a role in determining the results of the 2020 presidential election. In a statement, YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said that the company was also working to remove livestreams that violate its policies against incitement to violence, including footage of graphic violence.
“In addition, we’re continuing to raise up authoritative news sources on our home page, in search results and in recommendations,” Shadloo said. “We will remain vigilant in the coming hours.”
Despite the fact that some platforms took steps to delete Trump’s content on Wednesday, it remained a notable and glaring reality that no platform had moved to ban the president outright. On the @TwitterSafety account, Twitter wrote that it had “significantly restricting engagement with Tweets labelled under our Civic Integrity Policy due to the risk of violence,” and that it was “exploring other escalated enforcement actions.” New labels have also been appended to at least two of Trump’s tweets, warning, “This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can’t be replied to, retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence.”
In further tweets, the account clarified that it had mandated the removal of three of Trump’s tweets, and that the president’s account would remain locked until the tweets had been deleted.
Future violations of the the platform’s rules, including its civic integrity or violent threats policies, “will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account,” the platform wrote.