Trump blocked from Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat after violence on Capitol Hill

For the first time, Twitter says Trump's account will be locked for 12 hours. Facebook goes further.

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Queenie Wong
4 min read

Facebook and Twitter took action against Trump's accounts on Wednesday.

Angela Lang/CNET

Update, Feb. 9: Trump's second impeachment trial is happening in the Senate now. Here's how to watch the hearing live

Twitter and Facebook for the first time temporarily blocked President Donald Trump from posting on their sites after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, sparking violence and halting the process to certify Joe Biden as the next US president. Snapchat also took action and locked Trump's account.  

In a rare move, Twitter locked Trump's account because the company said he violated its rules against interfering in elections or other civic processes. Earlier on Wednesday, Trump posted several tweets that included baseless claims about election fraud.

The president shared the same posts on his Facebook Page. On Wednesday, Facebook blocked Trump from posting for 24 hours for violating two policies, with Facebook-owned Instagram announcing the same. But then Thursday, Facebook went much further, blocking Trump on both sites "indefinitely" -- or for at least two weeks.

"We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great," CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. "Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete."  

Read more: Will Trump be impeached a second time? What to know and where the situations stands

A spokesperson for Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, confirmed that it too locked Trump's account on Wednesday. 

The actions came amid an increasingly urgent clamor for the social networks to deal with the president's use of their platforms to spread misinformation, stir grievance and incite violence. University of Virginia law professor Danielle Citronjournalist Kara SwisherObama Foundation CTO Leslie MileyAnti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and other high-profile figures posted tweets urging Twitter to boot Trump from the social media site as mayhem played out in the nation's capital. 

"Time is now to suspend Trump's account," Citron tweeted. "He has deliberately incited violence, causing mayhem with his lies and threats."

Twitter and Facebook have labeled a number of Trump's posts in the past, though Twitter has stopped short of removing his tweets because of public interest. "Our public interest policy -- which has guided our enforcement action in this area for years — ends where we believe the risk of harm is higher and/or more severe," Twitter said in a tweet. 

Twitter said it's requiring the removal of three tweets from Trump's account. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed on Thursday that the tweets had been deleted. The platform is reportedly set to return access to Trump's account on Thursday morning, after being locked for 12 hours. If he violates Twitter's rules again, the company could permanently suspend his account. 

One of the tweets included a video of Trump that garnered more than 13 million views. In the video, Trump urged his supporters to "go home now" but also repeated false claims about election fraud. "We have to have peace. We have to have law and order," he said in the video. Facebook and Google-owned YouTube pulled down the video. Facebook said it pulled down the video because it believes it could contribute to more violence.

YouTube's policies and penalties

On Thursday, YouTube further tightened the policy that Trump's video violated -- an intensification that could accelerate termination of his account if his channel continues to run afoul of it. 

Last month, YouTube instituted a policy to remove any new videos alleging that fraud altered the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, as the president's video did late Wednesday. But until Thursday, this rule had a grace period. Videos in violation were taken down, but channels that violated the policy faced no other penalties. Starting Thursday, videos that violate that policy will be issued a "strike," YouTube said. Channels are temporarily suspended from posting or livestreaming when they get strikes, and YouTube's "three strike" system permanently bans channels with three violations in a 90-day period. 

Originally, the grace period on strikes for this election-fraud-claims policy was set to end on Inauguration Day. Instead, YouTube ended the grace period Thursday. 

"We apply our policies and penalties consistently, regardless of who uploads it," YouTube said in a tweet describing the change

Twitter, along with Facebook, took its strongest stance against Trump's posts on Wednesday. Facebook also removed several of Trump's posts. While social networks have generally labeled Trump's posts about election fraud, violence at the US Capitol prompted them to take tougher action. A woman was fatally shot inside US Capitol in a standoff between law enforcement and Trump supporters, according to multiple media reports. Critics were also calling on Twitter and Facebook to suspend Trump's accounts.

Congress returned to the Capitol late Wednesday and certified Biden's Electoral College win early Thursday.

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

--Joan E. Solsman contributed to this report.