Social media companies are under close scrutiny over their handling of misinformation and threats of violence tied to the inauguration of United States President-elect Joe Biden today, amid conflicting signals in far-right forums about possible attacks.
The companies have sought to distance themselves from the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, following weeks of toxic rhetoric and organizing online. The world’s biggest social media company says it has blocked the creation of any new events near strategic places like the White House, the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings through Inauguration Day.
Facebook also re-introduced a measure used after the presidential election that gives added weight in its news feed algorithm to publishers considered authoritative, based on an internal “news ecosystem quality” scoring system. Other temporary changes include blocks on the ability of people who have repeatedly violated policies to create events, groups, pages and live videos, as well as stepped-up requirements for users running groups to pre-approve posts.
On Saturday, Facebook said it would prohibit ads for weapon accessories like gun holsters and vests until at least two days after the inauguration, although researchers have spotted such ads even after the ban. The company suspended Trump at least through Inauguration Day, saying he used Facebook to “incite violent insurrection,” and has no plans to lift the ban even after that.
After the Capitol unrest, Twitter announced steps to limit amplification of tweets violating its election misinformation rules, blocking likes, replies and retweets of those messages. Users can still quote the tweets, but must add their own comments before sharing, it said.
The company also updated its “civic integrity” policy to establish a strike-based enforcement system for misleading election claims and purged more than 70,000 accounts for sharing QAnon content. A Twitter spokeswoman declined to say whether the company was restricting automated content recommendations, such as suggestions for users to follow, or to disclose specific terms being blocked from appearing in “trending” topics.
On Inauguration Day, Twitter will transfer control of official White House accounts like @WhiteHouse and @POTUS to the Biden administration. The company permanently suspended Trump’s personal account @realDonaldTrump, citing the risk of further incitement. That account had been his primary megaphone throughout his presidency.
YouTube, Alphabet Inc’s video streaming platform, said it has put in place “additional protective measures” for Inauguration Day, without elaborating. The company bars live videos that show someone using a firearm, but declined to say whether it was imposing any further restrictions on livestreams or making temporary changes to its systems for recommending content. On Tuesday, YouTube extended a one-week ban on Trump’s account for at least an additional seven days, citing “concerns about the ongoing potential for violence.”