The silencing of Donald Trump arrived last week in a “gradually, and then suddenly” manner that is typically reserved for the breaking of a dam or the explosive death of a star. One moment, it seemed, he was everywhere—propagating lies about election fraud and stoking riotous, violent mobs to storm the Capitol—and then, the next moment, he was gone.
In the span of a couple of days last week, Trump was banned or suspended by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitch. YouTube suspended him for at least a week on Tuesday evening. Shopify took down the online stores for both his campaign and the Trump Organization. Stripe stopped processing payments for his campaign’s website. Reddit banned the r/DonaldTrump subreddit, and Discord removed the server connected to the pro-Trump group TheDonald.win. Although it was widely assumed that Trump would simply pivot to Parler, the social network catering to Trump supporters, it too went dark soon after Apple and Google removed the app from their stores and Amazon declared that it would no longer host it on its cloud computing services.
The platforms’ reasons for these moves were entirely valid and incredibly serious: Trump and his allies were inciting violence and spreading dangerous lies. Indeed, the dangers of their speech became unmistakably clear on Jan. 6, when Trump’s demands that his supporters “fight like hell” led to the deaths of at least five people, the construction of a gallows on the Capitol lawn, and camouflaged men roaming the halls carrying zip ties and rope.
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