Assailed from both right and left, the social-media giants will face ever closer scrutiny
THE MEGAPHONE has been taken away. On January 8th Twitter, a social network, announced that it was “permanently suspending” President Donald Trump’s account. Viewed in isolation, the two tweets that led to the ban were, by Mr Trump’s standards, fairly innocuous. But Twitter said it had taken its decision in the wake of the riot at America’s Congress on January 6th, in which five people died as legislators’ offices were ransacked by a crowd of Mr Trump’s supporters after Mr Trump had encouraged them to march on the Capitol. The social network said that continuing to give Mr Trump access risked allowing him to incite further violence.
Other social networks have taken a similarly tough line. Facebook has said that Mr Trump’s account will be banned for “at least” the remainder of his term in office, which is due to expire on January 20th. Snapchat, a smaller social network, has likewise blocked the president’s access. Besides defenestrating Mr Trump, Twitter also banned the accounts of Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell, two of the president’s dwindling circle of allies. And it promised to do the same for accounts dedicated to QAnon, a nutty but resilient conspiracy theory that holds that America is run by a cabal of Satanic paedophiles.
The suspensions mark the most drastic actions that social-media platforms have yet taken to enforce their rules on what can and cannot be said on their platforms. Both Twitter and Facebook had said previously that politicians would be held to lower standards than ordinary users, on the grounds that their utterances—even the sort of inflammatory or false ones of which Mr Trump was fond—were of wide interest. More recently, they had taken to labelling or blocking a greater number of untrue or potentially harmful posts.