Facebook has “no plans” to lift its indefinite ban on President Donald Trump’s account, said the firm’s chief operating officer.
“In this moment, the risk to our democracy was too big that we felt we had to take the unprecedented step of what is an indefinite ban,” Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview with Reuters. “And I’m glad we did.”
Sandberg remarked that the California-based company has “clearly established principles that say you cannot call for violence.”
Large tech firms and a number Democratic political figures have claimed Trump incited violence at the U.S. Capitol last week that include a breach of the building, sending lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence scurrying to secure areas.
Trump, in response to what many have perceived as censorship by tech firms, told reporters that he believed his comments were appropriate.
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump told reporters in response to the Big Tech backlash for his speech on Jan. 6 to protesters. “We want no violence … absolutely no violence,” he said.
“I look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level, about the riots in the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places, that was the real problem,” Trump remarked. He pointed to speeches and rhetoric by various political leaders over the past year during historic riots as ones that incited violence.
And these firms are “doing a horrible thing to our country. … And I believe it’s going to be a catastrophic mistake for them,” Trump said.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, speaks during the Digital-Life-Design conference in Munich, Germany, on Jan. 20, 2019. (Lino Mirgeler/AFP/Getty Images)
It wasn’t just Facebook that suspended Trump’s account. Twitter and several other tech companies suspended their services with Trump and GOP officials, making the same claim that they incited violence and violated the firms’ terms of service.
The tech censorship wave has prompted criticism from civil liberties groups, world leaders, and some legal experts.
“YouTube is no longer a platform, and Twitter is no longer a platform,” said Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz on his podcast. “It’s a partisan political tool that can be used for purposes that were unintended by Section 230, and section 230 must be amended, or at least interpreted not to apply to platforms that censor.”
And Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, said in a statement that Twitter’s decision to suspend Trump from social media sets a precedent for tech companies to silence all voices, not just the president’s voice.
The group first took issue with Trump’s usage of social media outlets to question the results of the Nov. 3 election and his allegations of voter fraud.
“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions—especially when political realities make those decisions easier,” the ACLU statement read.