Despite more than four years of racism, violence, and other threats perpetrated by Donald Trump, tech and social companies took no action to impose restrictions on Trump and his followers. But after the Jan. 6 riots and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, multiple companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, Airbnb, GoFundMe, and social media platforms all imposed restrictions on Trump and his allies. The restrictions follow the spread of false information and efforts to spread more violence in the days leading to the 2021 presidential inauguration.
According to the Associated Press, Washington, D.C. city officials requested companies including Airbnb take down their listings until the inauguration was over. “There’s no way to guarantee that your guests are not coming to incite violence,” Janeese Lewis George, a Washington city council member, said on Twitter. “Please protect your neighbors and the District from more attacks.” While Airbnb has actively removed guests who have been known members of hate groups since 2017, the company announced on Monday that it is reviewing reservations in the Washington, D.C. area and will ban any guests associated with hate groups or violent activity.
Update: Following through with its warning to ban individuals associated with hate groups, Airbnb said it has identified and banned “numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building.”
Additionally, after local, state, and federal officials requested people not travel to Washington D.C., Airbnb announced that it would cancel all reservations in the Washington D.C. metro area during Inauguration week and prevent new reservations from being made.
Additionally, Airbnb warned guests that legal action may be taken against them if they are members of hate groups or plan violent activities during their stay. The company banned anyone confirmed to have engaged in the failed coup at the Capitol and is using cross-referencing arrest records to determine who should be removed, the AP reported. The number of those banned to date has not been released.
In a similar announcement, GoFundMe said it will no longer allow individuals to fundraise for travel expenses to potentially violent political events. "Due to the violence, GoFundMe has removed numerous fundraisers intended to raise money for travel expenses," a spokesperson for the company told CNN. The spokesperson added that fundraisers “that attempt to spread misinformation about the election, promote conspiracy theories and contribute to or participate in attacks on US democracy” will also be continuously removed.
GoFundMe isn’t the only company that has restricted fundraising or donations towards violent pro-Trump individuals. Stripe, a payment company, also announced that it would no longer process Trump campaign donations.
Amazon followed suit and announced Monday it will also pause donations from its Political Action Committee (PAC) to lawmakers who voted against the certification of the presidential election results. “We intend to discuss our concerns directly with those Members we have previously supported and will evaluate their responses as we consider future PAC contributions,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement, according to CNBC News. According to records from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website, Amazon’s PAC contributed to Ted Cruz’s senate campaign in 2017 and 2018, in addition to supporting other legislators who voted against the certification of the presidential election result. Facebook and Google also have paused PAC contributions while policies are reviewed.
In addition to pausing PAC contributions, Facebook joined Twitter in barring Trump from its platform and announced that it would begin removing all content that includes the phrase “stop the steal,” NBC News affiliate WTVA reported. The announcement follows Twitter’s ban on at least 700,000 accounts since Friday for promoting QAnon theories.
While it is great that Twitter finally took the action to ban Trump, one cannot help but ask why it took so long. Trump has repeatedly posted violent and false information on the platform and has for years been known to incite violence. The company justified its ban by stating that Trump’s tweet claiming he would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration could be interpreted as encouragement of violence; however, other tweets have said worse and been more evident of his support of violence.
As The New York Times noted after the invasion of the Capitol last week, companies are now acting "as if 'don’t incite an insurrectionist mob' had been in the community guidelines all along.” The timing of when companies decided to act on the request politicians and activists have been making for years is interesting.
“It has not escaped my attention that the day social media companies decided there actually IS more they could do to police Trump’s destructive behavior was the same day they learned Democrats would chair all the congressional committees that oversee them,” Jennifer Palmieri, a political adviser and former White House communications director for the Obama administration, said on Twitter.