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Facebook blocks Donald Trump

Washington: Facebook Inc said it would block U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts for at least the next two weeks until the presidential transition is completed and perhaps indefinitely, the most significant sanction of the president by any major social media company. The decision by Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg comes after Facebook announced on Wednesday it would lock for 24 hours Trump’s page, which has 35 million followers.

Tech giants have been scrambling to crack down on the president’s baseless claims about the U.S. presidential election after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in unrest that resulted in four deaths.

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Thursday. He said the block would also apply to Facebook-owned Instagram. (Post: bit.ly/2Lc6Xj1)

Zuckerberg called the unrest “an insurrection” in an internal all-hands staff meeting on Thursday, according to audio of the call heard by Reuters.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

Twitter Inc and Snap Inc also temporarily locked Trump’s accounts on Wednesday. Twitter said its freeze of @realDonaldTrump, which has more than 88 million followers, would last until 12 hours after Trump removes three tweets.

E-commerce platform Shopify also said on Thursday it was shutting down service for stores affiliated with Trump for violations of its “acceptable use” policy, prompting e-commerce sites for both the campaign and the Trump Organization to go offline.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Social media companies have been under pressure to police misinformation about the U.S. election on their platforms, including from the president. Trump and his allies for months have amplified baseless claims of election fraud and the president told protesters to go to Capitol Hill, with both Republicans and Democrats saying he was responsible for the resulting violence.

In a video posted to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Wednesday, which was later deleted by the platforms, Trump repeated election fraud claims as he told protesters to go home.

“His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the U.S. and around the world,” said Zuckerberg in his Thursday post.

Civil rights groups including Color of Change have called for social media companies to permanently ban Trump from the platforms, where he has repeatedly violated policies.

The Anti-Defamation League praised Facebook’s move, calling it “an obvious first step,” while the NAACP in a statement said the move was a “long overdue” gesture that “rings hollow.”

Facebook has previously been blasted by lawmakers and employees for not acting on inflammatory posts from Trump, including those that have been labeled by Twitter.

Facebook has drawn criticism for exempting politicians’ posts and ads from its third-party fact-checking program and repeatedly said it does not want to be “the arbiter of truth.” The company has in recent months started labeling some of Trump’s statements.

Some Facebook employees joined calls for Trump’s accounts to be shut down on Wednesday, according to internal posts seen by Reuters.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, incoming chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he was glad social media was cracking down on Trump’s false claims but the actions did not go far enough.

“These platforms have served as core organizing infrastructure for violent, far right groups and militia movements for several years now – helping them to recruit, organize, coordinate and in many cases (particularly with respect to YouTube) generate profits from their violent, extremist content,” he said in a statement.

YouTube said Thursday any channel that posts videos with false claims about the election results will be temporarily restricted from uploading or live streaming.

YouTube did not respond to a question about whether it would ban Trump’s account in the same manner as Facebook, while a Twitter spokesman said it was continuing to “evaluate the situation in real time, including examining activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter.” He said Twitter would inform the public if an “escalation” in its approach was necessary.

Violent rhetoric ramped up significantly in the past three weeks on major social networks as well as alternative platforms like Parler and pro-Trump site TheDonald.win, as groups planned for the rallies, according to researchers and public postings.

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