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Big Tech Turns on Trump

From Facebook and Twitter to Reddit and Amazon, tech firms are moving to silence the president, and his QAnon supporters. Even Peloton has joined the fray, alongside many more, including TikTok (which must be enjoying the moment).

Twitter’s decision to suspend Trump’s account opened the floodgates for tech companies and platforms to remove the outgoing US president from their services. Twitter’s 'permanent' suspension was followed by Facebook, which has announced the move would be 'indefinite'.

More and more companies then followed suit. Trump’s personal and campaign accounts were banned from Snapchat and Twitch, while his campaign store was banned from Shopify and payment processor Stripe.

Reddit banned the subreddit 'r/DonaldTrump,' the more moderate of what had once been two major communities of Trump fans on the platform. Discord, which had provided a home to members of 'r/TheDonald' after Reddit banned it in June, also plucked up the courage to jump on the bandwagon.

Platforms have also started to take action against the wider movement behind the invasion of the US Capitol. YouTube will enforce a 'strike' against any channel that posts false claims that the election was stolen, or that Trump is the true victor. TikTok, after more than a year at the receiving end of the president’s anger, has had its own opportunity to retaliate, and is redirecting anti-democratic hashtags to its community guidelines.

Pinterest is one of the few social networks that hasn’t changed its policies in the last week, but probably only because it had already been restricting most of the pro-Trump topics since mid-December, when it first took action against tags including #Stopthesteal.

Facebook is now taking action against groups and pages that promoted the 'Stop the Steal' movement. Twitter went one further, removing or suspending 70,000 accounts associated with QAnon, the conspiracist movement closely linked with the Capitol attack. “Given the violent events in Washington DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” the company announced.

Even unexpected platforms have started to take action. Peloton, the exercise-bike startup that allows subscribers to cycle along to live classes from their own living rooms, is preventing users from creating the #stopthesteal tag on their app. Such tags are used to mark members of a community - so, for instance, residents of a town might tag their workout #watford so that they can compare how they’re doing against their neighbours. But Peloton says that Stop the Steal does not “meet our guidelines”, a move it has taken before when it banned QAnon-related tags from its app.

The push has even prompted Amazon to act. The tech giant is famously averse to removing products from sale, but the company has announced it will take action against QAnon-linked merchandise. Such products, which include clothes, books and even novelty baseball bats, were not sold by Amazon directly, instead being made available on the site’s third-party marketplace. The Washington Post reports that merchants who try to evade the ban could lose their accounts entirely.

The strongest action has been reserved for Parler, the “free speech” social network that tried to offer a home for those banned from mainstream sites. Apple and Google removed it from their app stores, and then AWS, the hosting arm of Amazon, announced it would be terminating its service, effectively removing it from the internet.

Trump still has some outlets. The White House and its platform remains his for nine days, and it seems unlikely the president would be turned away from Fox News any time soon. But the open slots on the internet for the soon-to-be-ex-president are few and far between.


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