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Facebook acts on Trump rallying call, social media app expelled after Capitol riot

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Facebook says it will remove certain content containing the phrase “stop the steal” from its platforms for the next two weeks, while a social media app favoured by Trump supporters has been booted off the internet after last week’s assault on the US Capitol.

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Facebook announced its policy toward the use of ”stop the steal” – a term used heavily by Trump supporters protesting the US election result – while saying it was treating the lead-up to president-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration as a “major civic event”.

“With continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead-up to the inauguration”, the company said in a blog post.

A Facebook spokeswoman clarified the company would allow posts that clearly share the “stop the steal” phrase to either condemn or to discuss neutrally.

In November, Facebook removed the “Stop the Steal” group in which supporters of US President Donald Trump posted violent rhetoric and false claims of election fraud.

However, the company had not acted against similar rhetoric in the run-up to the election and faced criticism this week for failing to remove posts spurring on the siege of Capitol Hill.

Facebook said on Monday it would add a news digest to Facebook News during inauguration week that would include a live video of the inauguration at the US Capitol on January 20.

The company said it was keeping in place the pause on all advertisements in the US about politics or elections.

It came as Amazon kicked social media app Parler off its web-hosting service Monday, prompting it to sue to get back online and tell a federal judge the tech giant had breached its contract and abused its market power.

It was a rollercoaster of activity for Parler, a two-year-old magnet for the far right that welcomed a surge of new users and became the No.1 free app on iPhones late last week, after Facebook, Twitter and other mainstream social media platforms silenced President Donald Trump’s accounts over comments that seemed to incite Wednesday’s violent insurrection.

The wave of Trump followers flocking to the service was short-lived. Google yanked Parler’s smartphone app from its app store Friday for allowing postings that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the US.”

Apple followed suit on Saturday after giving Parler a day to address complaints it was being used to “plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities”. It was later joined by Amazon, which informed Parler it would need to look for a new web-hosting service after Sunday.

Parler chief executive John Matze decried the punishments as “a co-ordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace”.

Matze has signalled there is little chance of getting Parler back online soon after “every vendor, from text message services, to email providers, to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day”, he told Fox New Channel.

A group of activist hackers have salvaged much of what happened on Parler before it went offline and said they planned to put it into a public archive. One described the operation on Twitter as “a bunch of people running into a burning building trying to grab as many things as we can”.

Republican business donor backlash

Republicans in the US Congress have faced growing blowback from businesses that said they would cut off campaign contributions to those who voted last week to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

The announcements by Amazon, General Electric, Dow, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon Communications, American Express, Airbnb, Cisco Systems, Best Buy and Mastercard, among others, threaten to throttle fundraising resources for Republicans who will soon be out of power in the White House and both chambers of Congress.

AT&T and Comcast, for example, are among the biggest corporate donors in Washington.

Greeting-card giant Hallmark said it had asked senators Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall to return its contributions. Representatives for the two Republicans, who both objected to Biden’s certification, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copper giant Freeport-McMoRan said it would suspend contributions to all political candidates.

The announcements are a sign that some corporate donors, which typically spread their money widely around Capitol Hill, are reassessing their strategy after supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol last week in an effort to prevent Congress from formalising Biden’s victory.

It is unclear whether their decisions will have a lasting impact. Fundraising activity is currently at a post-election lull in Washington, giving businesses and trade groups some time to figure out their approach.

Few companies have gone as far as Dow, which said it would withhold donations for the Republican lawmakers’ entire terms in office – up to six years for those in the Senate. Others said they would withhold donations temporarily, or suspend giving to Republicans and Democrats alike.

At least five people died in last week’s attack, which also forced lawmakers into hiding for several hours.

When they reconvened, 147 Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to challenge Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania or Arizona, even though both states already formally certified the results and election officials say there were no significant problems with the vote.

Those voting yes included the top two House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, and Senator Rick Scott, who as incoming head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee will head up efforts to win back the Senate in the 2022 elections. All their jobs require extensive fundraising.

Amazon said it would discuss concerns “directly with those members we have previously supported” before deciding whether to resume contributions.

-with AAP

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