WASHINGTON — Facebook and Instagram will bar President Donald Trump from posting on its system at least until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, the platform said Thursday.
In a post announcing the unprecedented move, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to use the platform is too great following the president's incitement of a mob that touched off a deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Zuckerberg says Trump’s account will be locked “for at least the next two weeks” but could remain locked indefinitely.
“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," Zuckerberg wrote.
Trump has repeatedly harnessed the power of social media to spread falsehoods about election integrity and the results of the presidential race. Platforms like Facebook have occasionally labeled or even removed some of his posts, but the overall response has failed to satisfy a growing number of critics who say the platforms have enabled the spread of dangerous misinformation.
In light of Wednesday's riot, however, Zuckerberg said a more aggressive approach is needed.
“The current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” he wrote.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will also block Trump's ability to post on its platform “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks," Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram tweeted Thursday.
Twitter also locked Trump’s accounts for 12 hours after he repeatedly posted false accusations about the integrity of the election. That suspension was set to expire sometime Thursday; the president had not yet resumed tweeting as of late Thursday morning.
"America is and must always be a nation of law and order," Trump said. "The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay."
White House spokesman Judd Deere had said in an email that “it’s incredibly ironic, yet not surprising, that when the President spoke to the country at a critical time Big Tech chose to censor and block him from doing so.”
A Twitter spokesman said the company could take further action as well.
“We're continuing to evaluate the situation in real time, including examining activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter," the spokesman said. “We will keep the public informed, including if further escalation in our enforcement approach is necessary."
Google-owned YouTube also removed Trump’s video message to rioting supporters Wednesday but the company didn’t immediately respond Thursday to questions about whether it was taking additional actions. The most recent videos posted to Trump’s YouTube account on Thursday were from a day earlier and mostly featured Fox News and C-SPAN coverage of congressional hearings.
The platforms continue to face criticism from users who blamed them, in part, for creating an online environment that led to Wednesday's violence.
"Today is the result of allowing people with hate in their hearts to use platforms that should be used to bring people together," singer Selena Gomez wrote on Twitter to her 64 million followers. "You have all failed the American people today, and I hope you're going to fix things moving forward."
Thomas Rid, a Johns Hopkins cyberconflict scholar, tweeted “kudos and respect” to Zuckerberg and Facebook shortly after the announcement that Trump’s account would be locked for two weeks.
“Clearly the right move,” Rid said. “Consistent incitement to political violence is not acceptable. Twitter should do so as well.”
A message left with the White House on Thursday morning was not immediately returned.
Also early Thursday morning, Twitter suspended the account of attorney Lin Wood, a Trump supporter who has reportedly gone so far as to call for Pence's execution.