AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Facebook said today it will continue to block President Trump's account to ensure a peaceful transition. The platform will not let Trump post again until he leaves office and possibly for longer than that. This is the biggest move from social media companies after the riots that took over the U.S. Capitol yesterday. NPR's Bobby Allyn has been covering the story and joins us now.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey.
CHANG: So what was the rationale that Facebook gave for its decision today? And we should note first that Facebook is a financial supporter of NPR.
ALLYN: So Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a public post that he believes in politicians, you know, having the ability to speak freely on Facebook, even when it's controversial. But Trump has gone too far, Zuckerberg says. He specifically pointed to the mob violence that we saw on the Capitol yesterday and said, quote, "we believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great." In other words, Zuckerberg is worried that Trump could use the social network to stoke more violence. And so Trump, like you said, will be blocked at least until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. Now, people like Emerson Brooking have been studying how Trump uses Facebook for years now. Brooking is at the Washington think tank the Atlantic Council. Here's his take.
EMERSON BROOKING: It's incredible that it took an attempted insurrection for Facebook to take this seriously - the rhetoric that Trump has been spreading and the way he's used his platform, especially these last few crucial months.
CHANG: And, Bobby, I guess Facebook totally has the power to do this, right? I mean, it really does not matter that Trump is the president here.
ALLYN: That's right. So Facebook, by law, has all the power in deciding what's on their site, you know, whether it's your grandma posting or President Trump.
ALLYN: Yeah. That said, Facebook and Twitter are, you know, basically modern-day public squares. So the idea of free speech, like, the spirit of free speech is definitely embedded on social media in how people use it, but it is not a legal guarantee. And here Facebook is censoring Trump. But Zuckerberg says, on balance, trying to limit additional mayhem across the country is the most important thing.
CHANG: OK, so that's Facebook. But Twitter obviously seems to be the president's preferred method of communication. Tell us, what is Twitter doing right now?
ALLYN: Yeah. So yesterday, Twitter forced Trump to take down three posts that were glorifying violence and peddling false election claims. Twitter locked down his account for 12 hours. If Trump keeps abusing the rules, Twitter says they're going to blacklist Trump for life from Twitter. So far, the president is following the rules. Earlier this evening, he released his first video since the ban. It was a video in which he actually condemned the violence, and he promised a peaceful transition.
CHANG: But ultimately, what's the significance of these moves by Twitter, especially if President Trump gets his Twitter account back, even if it's just temporarily?
ALLYN: Yeah, they are huge steps for the company. Let's be clear about that. But, you know, Brookings (ph) from the Atlantic Council says Trump being banned on Facebook - that doesn't mean that, you know, these conspiracy theories are just going to vanish from the Internet.
BROOKING: But it is going to demonstrably reduce the spread of dis- and misinformation because Trump has been that critical link which sees these theories go from being localized to mainstreamed.
ALLYN: Yeah, what Brookings (ph) is saying is when researchers like him trace how conspiracy theories go viral, often, they find themselves landing on Trump's Facebook and Twitter accounts. And, you know, if Twitter is true to its word, the next time Trump shares something that violates its rules, he's going to be booted from the platform forever.
CHANG: That is NPR's Bobby Allyn.
Thank you, Bobby.
ALLYN: Hey, thank you.
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