(Reuters) – Facebook Inc has seen an increase in violent rhetoric online indicating potential future acts of violence associated with efforts to contest the result of the US presidential election since the Capitol siege last week, a company spokeswoman told Reuters.
The spokeswoman, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said late Tuesday the storming of the US Capitol by armed pro-Trump demonstrators appeared to be a galvanizing event, spawning efforts to organize gatherings across the country for multiple dates around President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Signals Facebook tracked included digital flyers promoting the events, some of them featuring calls to arms or the insignia of militias or hate groups, she said.
The FBI has warned of armed protests being planned for Washington and all 50 US state capitals in the run-up to the inauguration. The Facebook spokeswoman said the pace of the company’s exchange of information with law enforcement officials had likewise increased since the Capitol protests.
Violent rhetoric on online platforms had already ramped up in the weeks before last week’s unrest as right-wing groups planned the assault, largely in open public view, according to researchers and public postings.
Lawmakers were forced to flee as the Capitol was mobbed by Trump loyalists, white nationalist groups and militias who overwhelmed security forces. Five people died in the violence, including a Capitol Police officer who was beaten as he tried to ward off the crowds.
After the unrest, tech companies took unprecedented steps to crack down on the baseless claims of election fraud that had spurred calls for violence. Twitter Inc and Facebook blocked Trump’s accounts, while Amazon Web Services and the major mobile app stores cut off social media network Parler.
On Monday, Facebook banned content promoting the phrase “stop the steal,” which has become a rallying cry at armed pro-Trump protests. The company was also blocking searches for “storm the Capitol” and flagging posts that include those phrases for further review, the spokeswoman said.
Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said on Tuesday it had suspended Donald Trump’s channel as it violated policies for inciting violence after last week’s assault on the US Capitol by the president’s supporters.
Online platforms and social media companies are distancing themselves from, and taking action against, those that encouraged or engaged in the violence in Washington, DC.
Trump’s channel is now prevented from uploading new videos or livestreams for a minimum of seven days, which may be extended, Youtube said in a statement.
The company has also indefinitely disabled comments under videos on the channel.
The suspension of Trump’s channel came after comments that he made at a news conference, which was streamed on the platform on Tuesday morning, the company said.
Youtube’s action against the president comes after US civil rights groups told Reuters that they were set to organize an advertiser boycott against the company if it does not remove Trump’s channel.
Supporters of Trump stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.
Trump, who has challenged the validity of Biden’s victory without producing evidence, initially praised his supporters but later condemned the violence.
Lawmakers were forced to flee as the building was mobbed by protesters who overwhelmed security forces. Five people died in the violence, including one Capitol Police officer.
After the incident, Twitter and Facebook removed Trump’s accounts and have been eliminating content supporting last week’s assault, while Amazon.com Inc suspended Parler, a social media platform favored by many supporters of Trump, from its web hosting service.
(Reporting by Katie Paul and Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Additional Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Rashmi Aich and Kim Coghill)