In the hours and days after a mob of President Trumpâ€™s loyalists stormed the Capitol, the nationâ€™s biggest tech companies began to shut down accounts that helped incite the rampage. In the days and weeks before the attack, President Trump had used his Twitter feed and Facebook page to spread the lie that he had won the November election. It was that falsehood that helped drive the mob to the Capitol last Wednesday after a speech by the president.
Facebook said the risks were too great to allow the presidentâ€™s posts. Twitter followed suit. The focus shifted to Parler, a favorite app for right-wing figures. Citing posts on Parler that encouraged violence and crime, Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores. Then Amazon stopped hosting it.
For Big Tech, the events of the past week raised tricky questions about politics, free speech and radicalization of people online.
The app renewed a debate about who holds power over online speech after the tech giants yanked their support for it and left it fighting for survival. Parler went dark on Monday after Amazonâ€™s web hosting platform shut down Parlerâ€™s account.
The president became a celebrity through television, but Twitter had given him a singular outlet for expressing himself as he is, unfiltered by the norms of the office.
The companies pulled support for the â€œfree speechâ€� social network, cutting the service off from its users just as many conservatives are seeking alternatives to Facebook and Twitter.
The presidentâ€™s preferred megaphone cited â€œthe risk of further incitement of violence.â€� It acted after Facebook, Snapchat, Twitch and other platforms had placed limits on him.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebookâ€™s chief executive, said the risks of Mr. Trump using the service were too great.
The ability of a handful of people to control our public discourse has never been more obvious, writes our columnist Kevin Roose.
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