Facebook and Twitter Finally Respond to Trump

This week, we analyze how the social media platforms reacted to the events of January 6. We also offer our preview…

Lauren Goode: Happy new year, Mike, and our producer, Boone Ashworth, just told us that this is our 40th remote episode since we started working from home during the pandemic. I mean, I’m sure we’ve taped remote episodes before, but I guess that means it’s almost been a year at this point.

MC: 40 weeks of delivery truck noises and cats meowing and toilets flushing and door slamming in the background so thank you for bearing with us.

LG: Yes. Thank you for being forgiving of our less than ideal audio.

Gilad Edelman: Wait, your cat can flush toilets?

MC: I trained her, yes. I trained her to do that. It’s way better than scooping. That voice that you just heard, the voice of god is, of course, WIRED’s politics writer, Gilad Edelman, who’s coming to us from Washington, DC. Hello, Gilad.

GE: Hey guys. We doing new year’s resolutions?

MC: Maybe later in the show. Save that for recommendations.

LG: Restore democracy. That’s the resolution.

MC: Actually, that’s true. So, normally this time of year, at the beginning of January, we would be dedicating an entire episode of this show to CES, the giant Consumer Electronics Show that’s happening next week. But, of course, given the events happening in DC this week, we feel that we really need to address the news. So, we’ll be talking about CES in the second half of the show, but we’re going to spend the first part of this episode talking about the events of January 6, 2021, the day an armed mob of Trump supporters stormed to the US Capitol and try to stop Congress from verifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.

We’re taping the show on Thursday. So, from where we sit right now, the Capitol was stormed 24 hours ago, and since then we’ve seen a lot of developments, not only in governmental procedure, but also on the big internet platforms, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, et cetera. That’s where we’re going to concentrate today. The show is called Gadget Lab so we’re going to zoom into our phone screens and go deep. Gilad, we have you on the show because you’ve been following this issue closely. You just published a story about it. So, let’s start with this. Once all the action in DC started yesterday, on the 6th, how did the platforms first react?

GE: So, the moment when the social media platforms really inserted themselves into the unfolding story yesterday came kind of ironically, after Trump sort of did the thing that everybody was asking him to do. So, as the violence and chaos unfolded, there was a lot of where is Donald Trump? Why isn’t he calling these people off? No one was really surprised that he wasn’t calling them off. He had just whipped them into a lather and sent them to the Capitol, essentially. But still, you had Joe Biden, the president-elect go on TV and say, among other things, “Trump, you got to call this off.” And so not long after that, Trump released a minute-long video in which he told people to go home and we need to have peace. But in that minute video, maybe 40 seconds of it were him repeating how the election had been stolen and no one had ever seen something so horrible. I’m paraphrasing here.

And so it didn’t really go over that well among the crowd who had been calling on him to say something because despite telling his … Even as he was saying go home, he was repeating the same theory that underlay all the chaos in the first place. And so not long after that, I confess I don’t remember the precise sequence, but it didn’t take long for Facebook and YouTube to pull that video down and for Twitter, at first, to basically freeze it so you couldn’t retweet, reply to or like it, and then eventually Twitter took it down as well.

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