In the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol takeover, several social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, took swift action to ban various extremists, conspiracy theorists, and conservative figures. These bans come after years of criticism regarding the inadequate measures taken to combat misinformation and hate speech online. Notable personalities, including former President Donald Trump, have faced restrictions on their social media access. Here are some prominent individuals who have been banned:
Trump’s Ban and Beyond
Twitter, Snapchat, and Twitch have banned Donald Trump, while Facebook (including Instagram) announced a ban that will extend at least until the end of his term. YouTube, on the other hand, suspended all uploads on his channel for one week. Trump’s attempts to evade the ban by using alternative accounts, such as @TeamTrump and Trump’s digital director Gary Coby’s account, resulted in the suspension of those accounts as well.
MyPillow CEO Mark Lindell, known for spreading false claims about election fraud, was permanently banned from Twitter. Ali Alexander, a key organizer of the “Stop the Steal” protest group, faced bans on Twitter, Facebook, Paypal, and Venmo due to his online influence.
Prominent figures like Lin Wood, a defamation attorney and QAnon supporter who spread conspiracy theories and accused Vice President Mike Pence of treason, were permanently banned from Twitter. Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer and former member of Trump’s legal team, along with former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and Ron Watkins, the former head of QAnon-filled message board 8chun, were also removed from Twitter for sharing QAnon conspiracy content.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump strategist, had his podcast channel banned on YouTube after interviewing Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who called for a “trial by combat” during the rally. Furthermore, DLive, a streaming platform, revoked access for right-wing personalities Nick Fuentes and Nick Ochs, who were connected to the Capitol siege.
The Impact of Social Media Bans
Twitter reported banning around 70,000 QAnon accounts since the Capitol riots. Social media companies have also taken action against pages and forums associated with conspiracy theories. Reddit suspended the pro-Trump sub-reddit group r/DonaldTrump due to policy violations related to the violence at the U.S. Capitol. Additionally, Apple, Google, and Amazon have significantly limited access to Parler, a social media platform known for hosting conspiracy theories.
Criticisms and Background
While social media platforms faced criticism for their delayed actions against conspiracy theories like QAnon and the amplification of such theories by President Trump, European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, defended Trump, calling the suspension “problematic.” It wasn’t until July 2020 that Twitter began cracking down on QAnon, and Facebook only banned “Stop the Steal” 69 days after the election. The QAnon conspiracy theory has been linked to multiple violent events leading up to the Capitol takeover.
YouTube’s Stance on QAnon
Interestingly, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki previously refused to commit to banning QAnon from the platform, stating that they were closely monitoring the situation and had implemented various policies responsibly.
The banning of extremists, conspiracy theorists, and conservative figures from social media platforms marks a significant response to the Capitol takeover. These actions aim to address the spread of misinformation and hate speech. While criticisms and debates surround these bans, social media companies are taking steps to prevent real-world consequences resulting from conspiracy theories and online extremism.