The still-president Trump was banned from several social media networks since January 6, when he incited a mob to violently invade Congress in a self-coup attempt, which was one of the worse treasonous acts ever in this country. Many are discussing the merits of the ban, if it was censorship or a fair application of the social media’s community guidelines — every single social network has one. Arguments, for and against, are inflamed and even foreign figures offered their piece of mind.
I also have some ideas about all this.
1. That probably was a request from the FBI and CIA for this specific moment. A strategy to contain and prevent more violence these days.
2. Something went wrong on January 6, which resulted in a violent but pathetic coup attempt. The FBI and the CIA may not yet know the missing piece, but they probably had a very good idea of what went off-tracks that day, so the coup didn’t work. But they know something didn’t work that day (a van full of weapons didn’t arrive on time, for example).
3. Trump, his family, Ted Cruz, and others were very confident that the coup d’etat would be successful and they were open, bold, and explicit in their support in the 48 hrs leading to it: they thought they would never be held accountable. But they committed treason and sedition, for which they all should be investigated, prosecuted, and go to jail to create a precedent.
4. Since the coup did not work, they need to reorganize in order to do it, more than likely, around January 20, when president-elect Biden will be inaugurated. Trump has been falsely claiming he won the elections and it seems reasonable to believe his followers will try to stop Biden to be inaugurated.
5. Trump, then, on the following day of the failed coup, announced that he would not attend the inauguration on the 20th, meaning that the way was clear for the terrorists to attempt something else again.
6. The social media companies mobilized to block/takedown key figures and elements involved in this coup attempt, including purging thousands of accounts associated with these groups, namely QAnon.
7. Then, other companies such as Google and Apple decided to ban Parler, a very radical, ultra-right social media network, from their app stores. After the announcement they would be banned from those app stores, Parler had surges of new users downloading the app (which means they needed an app on their cell phones to communicate on the go, even though the site would still be accessible from their computer). Users also run to alternative apps such as Gab and other smaller platforms that started to gain traction with the mass migration of Parler users scrambling for an app to call home. But nothing compared to the 80+ million followers the president had on Twitter.
8. During the same weekend, Amazon Web Services said it would no longer host Parler (which could also have been requested by FBI and CIA because the communication would still be up and running among those who already had the app on their phones), which went offline Sunday night (as I wrote this piece, it was reported that it was still offline).
9. If they are unable to host the app elsewhere, the terrorists’ communication will be severely affected, as well as any reorganization effort to violent action on or around January 20 (they eventually will find a host, but it will not be very easy and probably not as fast or not comprehensive enough).
10. The main intention is to block communication and the organization in the very short term.
11. The community guidelines of all networks, which I read several, allow banning those who don’t follow them and they basically follow, more or less, the criminal code of each location (and a crucible of survival ethics). The guidelines are very clear: freedom of speech (“I don’t like A or B”, “C and D are ugly”) is okay to say, but crime (“go break into the Capitol, take it by force, letting them see your strength, I will kill them all”) will never be okay. The thin line was crossed: there was an undeniable connection between the word and the action from the president, lawyers, congress members, and several radical app users. There were no doubts about the application of the community guidelines anymore.
12. The social media complied, then, with requests from the FBI and CIA, as well as probably avoided lawsuits for being complicit with the coup. There was always a fine line between the violent absurds posted by trumpists and the real-life crime. The community guidelines existed but it was hard to be fully applied. Like a domestic violence occurrence: the victim can call the police a thousand times, but if there is no real crime, the police will advise good conduct and go away. Until one day, when the victim is visibly beaten or even killed, and they will finally arrest the aggressor). This time, the fine line between freedom of expression and crime was crossed.
13. Disrupting the communication of these radical domestic terrorist groups, at this point, is crucial to disrupting their plans and safeguarding people’s safety, as well as giving law enforcement agents the time they need to be more effective and organize to protect the people. (Even to find out which agents of the state are connected to these groups and/or supported this coup).
Regarding my ideas about the FBI and CIA: I didn’t read anything or contacted anyone. I have analytical experience acquired from the time I worked at a consulate, working with policy, laws, and regulations for many years. Plus recent research and discussions I had regarding social media trust & safety, policy, and their community guidelines, and the public employee mind that I have, made me conclude that this may be a request based on intelligence and prevention.
We will only really know what happened on January 6, 2021, some years down the road, but it is fundamentally important to stop whatever else may be in the making now. Don’t you think the president, the rioters that invaded Congress crossed the line between freedom of speech (“I don’t like x, y is bad”) and crime (“we should kill everyone who doesn’t like x”, “invade y for justice”)? If codes of conduct, community guidelines reflect common laws, shouldn’t it be respected? It doesn’t matter how much social media failed in the enforcement of their community guidelines before (that’s a discussion for several months ahead): at this point, banning the president and many others was the direction to go to preserve our democracy and our immediate future.