Big Tech Can’t Ban Its Way Out of This
Social media companies took a great deal of criticism for their role in enabling the January 6 breach of the Capitol. Now, with Joe Biden’s inauguration a few days away, and federal officials warning the risk of more violence is high, they’re scrambling to avoid being implicated in any additional attacks.
It’s hard to keep track of all the steps taken by tech companies over the past week and a half. (The nonprofit First Draft is heroically trying.) These companies include platforms that were directly implicated in the riot, as well as several that provide services like hosting and payment, and some that had no connection at all. To give a partial list: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all suspended or banned Donald Trump. Facebook and YouTube are suspending users who continue to say the election was stolen. Twitter says it has purged some 70,000 QAnon accounts. Facebook is blocking new events near locations like the Capitol, and along with Google has paused all political ads (again). Google also kicked the conservative-friendly Parler off its app store for failing to have a robust content moderation system. So did Apple, while Amazon canceled Parler’s hosting contract. Companies less accustomed to public scrutiny have also joined the crackdown. The streaming platform DLive banned users who had livestreamed themselves breaking into the Capitol. Telegram, a notoriously laissez-faire messaging and social media platform popular among far-right groups, announced that it had removed dozens of public channels because of “public calls to violence.” TikTok says it is blocking videos of Trump’s January 6 speech and hashtags associated with the attack. Zello, a walkie-talkie app used at the Capitol riot, says it has deleted more than 2,000 channels associated with white supremacists and right-wing militias. Even Peloton has seen it necessary to ban the #StopTheSteal tag within its app.