Twitter Lets Trump Spread False Election Conspiracy as Mob Storms U.S. Capitol

Twitter Lets Trump Spread False Election Conspiracy as Mob Storms U.S. Capitol
Trump supporters are seen outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

U.S. President Donald Trump continued to use Twitter to spread baseless conspiracy theories claiming that Democrats stole the election even as Trump supporters overran the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in an attempted coup aimed at overturning the results.

In response to the violent events in Washington, Twitter said it was monitoring the “public conversation” while “exploring other escalated enforcement actions.” “Threats of and calls to violence are against the Twitter Rules, and we are enforcing our policies accordingly,” Twitter said.

Trump, who has more than 88 million Twitter followers worldwide, has weaponised the micro-blogging platform as part of his months-long campaign to undermine faith in the election process — a campaign that culminated Wednesday with a large mob of his supporters overrunning police barricades to breach the Capitol, in what several Democratic lawmakers labelled an act of domestic terror.

Lawmakers, congressional staffers, and other key government officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, were quickly evacuated to safety after it became clear local and federal authorities would not contain the crowd.

Shortly after Twitter announced it was monitoring the situation, but otherwise taking no action, Trump again tweeted that the election had been stolen, while also calling on his supporters to abandon their plans of seizing government buildings by force.

“We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said in a video uploaded to Twitter. “It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”

Twitter did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment regarding its policies during the violence on Capitol Hill, which left one woman fatally wounded after being shot in the neck.

Twitter applied a label to the video warning of misinformation and prevented likes or retweets “due to a risk of violence.” Facebook reportedly removed the video Trump shared from its platform.

Twitter has granted Trump wide latitude throughout his term, allowing him to tweet in May that when “the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a message widely received as an endorsement of violence during summer demonstration against police brutality.

Twitter has said in the past that elected and government officials who violate its rules will not be penalised citing “public interest.” For example, Twitter found that Trump’s tweet saying “looting” will lead to “shooting” violated its rule against “glorifying violence,” but allowed it to stay online with a label saying it should remain accessible to the public.

The New York Times reported this afternoon that a bomb squad had destroyed a pipe bomb discovered at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, and that Democratic National Committee employees were also evacuated after a suspicious package was found.

The violence in Capitol has temporarily postponed U.S. Congress’ counting of electoral votes necessary to formally name former Vice President Joe Biden as the president-elect.