US President Donald Trump has returned to Twitter with a video acknowledging that Joe Biden would be the next US president as other social media services including Facebook blocked his accounts over concerns that his messages might spark further violent protests.
Twitter unlocked the president’s @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, which has 88 million followers, after Trump removed three rule-breaking tweets.
His first post back on the platform on Thursday featured a video in which he said he was focused on a peaceful transition of power and which was viewed 1.4 million times within 15 minutes of posting.
Tech companies have been scrambling to crack down on the president’s baseless claims about the November 3 US presidential election after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in unrest that resulted in four deaths.
Trump’s accounts remain blocked on Facebook and Instagram for at least two weeks and perhaps indefinitely. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Thursday post that the risks of allowing him to use the platform were “simply too great”.
Facebook’s move marked the most significant sanction of the president by a major social media company. Live-streaming platform Twitch and photo-sharing service Snap issued similar bans.
“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 said in his Facebook post.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said in response that the companies had censored the president at a critical time for the country. “Big Tech is out of control,” he said.
Zuckerberg said the block on Trump’s Facebook page, which has 35 million followers, would last at least until Biden takes office on January 20.
At an all-hands meeting on Thursday, Zuckerberg told employees he considered it important political leaders “lead by example and make sure we put the nation first”.
“What we’ve seen is that the president has been doing the opposite of that and instead fanning the flames of those who think they should turn to violence to overturn the election outcome,” he said, according to audio of the remarks heard by Reuters.
Social media companies have been under pressure to police misinformation about the US election on their platforms, including from the president.
Trump and his allies for months have amplified baseless claims of election fraud and the president told protesters to go to Capitol Hill, with both Republicans and Democrats saying he was responsible for the resulting violence.
Amazon.com’s Twitch disabled Trump’s channel due to the “extraordinary circumstances and the president’s incendiary rhetoric,” it said. A spokeswoman said the company would reassess Trump’s account after he leaves office.
E-commerce platform Shopify shut service for stores affiliated with Trump for violations of its “acceptable use” policy, prompting e-commerce sites for both the campaign and the Trump Organization to go offline.
Facebook’s decision follows bans in recent years of some government officials in India and Myanmar for promoting violence. A Facebook spokesman said the company had never before blocked a current president, prime minister or head of state.
In a video posted to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Wednesday, which was later deleted by the platforms after garnering millions of views, Trump repeated election fraud claims as he told protesters to go home.
The Anti-Defamation League praised Facebook’s move, calling it “an obvious first step,” while the NAACP in a statement said the move was a “long overdue” gesture that “rings hollow”.