Advocates react to the violent protests that took place at the Capitol Building.
In response to the storming of the Capitol Building on January 6, coalition members have asked us to reevaluate the way that social media platforms are used by political leaders, particularly when they are leveraged to incite violence.
Change the Terms
Change the Terms (CTT), a coalition dedicated to reducing hate online, issued a statement on January 6 calling for social media platforms to ban president Donald Trump, in the wake of the violence that took place at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. In particular, the group is asking for the dismantlement of Trump’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. They stated that the protests and riots were connected by organizing on these platforms, “organizing that was left unchecked and fueled by disinformation and conspiracy theories advanced by Trump.”
On January 7, Facebook announced its intention to block Trump on its platforms through the end of his term. In addition, Twitter stated that it would block Trump’s account for 12 hours, due to his posting of tweets that called for violence, while Snapchat cut off his access to his account, according to the New York Times. The article also said that YouTube would implement “a stricter election fraud misinformation policy.” However, Daiquiri Ryan, strategic legal advisor to the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a CTT member, said that these efforts are not enough.
“We’re asking for the full removal, specifically for Trump’s accounts,” said Ryan. “As far as his supporters and people who are spreading these conspiracy theories, in theory, each of the social media content moderation policies should already be taking those down, because they violate those policies. What we’re asking for is actual enforcement.” She added, “If these companies aren’t going to take action now, then we need to do something much bigger and reevaluate these power structures.”
Dangerous Speech Project
Another organization that is part of CTT, Dangerous Speech Project, wrote in an article that Trump bears responsibility for the acts of violence that took place in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. In a tweet on December 19, Trump announced that there would be a protest on January 6, writing, “Be there, will be wild!” The article by Susan Benesch said that Trump did not have to explain what this would mean – his supporters knew how to interpret the statement.
“Trump doesn’t usually call for violence explicitly, though he has done so,” wrote Benesch. “He doesn’t need to: he has a knack for using dangerous speech: language that he knows his supporters will understand as a call to violence. When that happens, Trump could easily correct them, but he fails to do so.”
Muslim Advocates, a group that has also advocated for the removal of Trump’s social media accounts and organizes with CTT, called the violence at the Capitol Building the result of a “shocking double standard,” in a press release. This past year, peacefully protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets and were violently suppressed by the police. In contrast, the rioters in D.C. were treated with kid gloves.
“Far too long, public officials and law enforcement have criminalized communities of color while they looked the other way as white nationalists and militias have organized, threatened, and committed violence,” reads the press release. “…Today’s events are a wake-up call that make clear who law enforcement views as a threat and who they think deserves respect.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.