Depending on who is asked, the recent ban on President Donald Trump is either a long time coming or a violation of the First Amendment. And still there are others, like comedic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who believe the ban isn’t enough. In a recent Instagram post, the star of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” posted this message: “YouTube is the new Trump TV. Trump’s YouTube Channel shows +4,000 Trump videos, including ‘stop the steal’ and calls ‘to fight!’ Corporate America—WHY are you running your ads on YouTube Trump TV?!”
So was the social media ban really worth all its hype?
The riot that led up to 11 social media accounts banning Donald Trump
After an intense Election 2020 that lead to Trump losing the presidency to former Vice President Joe Biden (2,473,633 versus 2,461,854 in popular votes and 306 versus 232 in electoral college results), Make America Great Again (MAGA) supporters have not taken it well. The 45th president hasn’t either, who then was defeated in 61 of 62 election fraud lawsuits since November 3, 2020. By the time the Supreme Court rejected his election fraud accusations, too, even with his own newest judge Amy Coney Barrett sworn in, he’d moved on to new tactics. And they did not include telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” any longer.
Instead, MAGA headed to the Capitol Building and stormed into it on the afternoon of Wed., Jan. 6, stealing podiums and mail; breaking into the offices of Congressional leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and physically assaulting police officers to the point of being dragged down stairs, smashed behind doorways, throwing fire extinguishers and trying to snatch their guns. Congressional leaders and journalists hid out until law enforcement could finally clear thousands of protesters from the building. And Trump’s response to the rioters was to say, “we love you, you’re very special.” Later in that same speech, he did tell them, “You have to go home now.”
FBI cracks down on Capitol rioters, social media cracks down on QAnon and Trump
Since then, more than 200 FBI cases have been opened and approximately 100 arrests of protesters have been made.
And social media execs finally put their foot down on sharing hate speech. Trump was subsequently banned from 11 popular social media platforms:
Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris supporters celebrated, a few of which pointed out that Harris had long ago asked for a Twitter ban on Trump—on her own Twitter account and during the Democratic Debates.
On Fri., Jan. 8, Twitter finally did ban Trump permanently and confirmed it via their official blog. They also banned more than 70K QAnon accounts.
However, even those who are not fans of Trump had mixed opinions regarding social media leaders removing him. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the more well-known critics, describing the Twitter Trump ban as “problematic.” According to her spokesperson, “the freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of ‘elementary significance’ … This fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators—not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms.”
However, the Capitol Riots bypassed “elementary significance” and simple opinions. The riot resulted in five deaths; one suicide; and approximately 58 officer injuries (swollen ankles and wrists, bruised arms and legs, concussions, and irritated lungs).
And judging from the results of three House Democrats (Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Pramila Jayapal and Brad Schneider) suddenly testing positive for COVID-19 because Republican Congress people barricaded inside of the room with them refused to wear masks, the maskless rioters may also lead to an uptick in COVID-19 superspreading among each other.
Why is social media relevant in the Capitol Riot?
Reports surfaced confirming the spread of misinformation on social media platforms may have helped rioters unite before the Capitol Riot and even afterward. In turn, even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg–who had been openly defensive about allowing MAGA to share what was often viewed as racist posts, images and videos—finally banned Trump from both Facebook and Instagram after news of the riot.
But as Cohen mentioned, banning the president does not automatically result in his MAGA supporters staying quiet. Videos, comments, tweets and social media statuses are still backing him, even without the president on the platform to egg them on. Additionally, although 10 Republicans joined House Democrats in impeaching Trump a second time (the first time in American history that a president has been impeached twice), there are still House and Senate leaders who are opposed to the impeachment and disagree with Trump being removed from social media even more than Merkel. And their accounts are alive and well.
So even with the indefinite ban on Trump’s social media accounts (and MAGA social media account Parler taken down), do you think the ban was worth it? Or, will it have minimal influence on the 53 percent of men and 42 percent of women who voted for him anyway?