Trump supporters are seen outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud.Photo: Jose Luis Magana (AP)
Update: At 6:30 p.m., roughly 30 minutes after publication of this article, Twitter deleted multiple Trump tweets falsely claiming he’d won the election.
President Trump continued to use Twitter to spread baseless conspiracy theories claiming that Democrats stole the election even as Trump supporters overran the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in an attempted coup aimed at overturning the results.
In response to the violent events in Washington, Twitter said it was monitoring the “public conversation” while “exploring other escalated enforcement actions.” “Threats of and calls to violence are against the Twitter Rules, and we are enforcing our policies accordingly,” Twitter said.
Trump, who has more than 88 million Twitter followers worldwide, has weaponized the micro-blogging platform as part of his months-long campaign to undermine faith in the election process—a campaign that culminated Wednesday with a large mob of his supporters overrunning police barricades to breach the Capitol, in what several Democratic lawmakers labeled an act of domestic terror.
Lawmakers, congressional staffers, and other key government officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, were quickly evacuated to safety after it became clear local and federal authorities would not contain the crowd.
Shortly after Twitter announced it was monitoring the situation, but otherwise taking no action, Trump again tweeted that the election had been stolen, while also calling on his supporters to abandon their plans of seizing government buildings by force.
“We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said in a video uploaded to Twitter. “It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”
Twitter did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment regarding its policies during the violence on Capitol Hill, which left one woman fatally wounded after being shot in the neck.
Twitter applied a label to the video warning of misinformation and prevented likes or retweets “due to a risk of violence.” Facebook reportedly removed the video Trump shared from its platform.
Trump later tweeted justifying his supporters’ actions as “things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
No audit or recount of election ballots has turned up evidence of widespread voter fraud or any plot to fix the results. Dozens of attempts by the Trump campaign’s lawyers to challenge the results in court have been tossed out by judges due to their lack of merit.
Twitter has granted Trump wide latitude throughout his term, allowing him to tweet in May, for instance, that when “the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a message widely perceived as an endorsement of violence during summer protests against police brutality.
Twitter has said in the past that elected and government officials who violate its rules will not be penalized citing “public interest.” For example, Twitter found that Trump’s tweet saying “looting” will lead to “shooting” violated its rule against “glorifying violence,” but allowed it to stay online with a label saying it should remain accessible to the public.
The New York Times reported this afternoon that a bomb squad had destroyed a pipe bomb discovered at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, and that Democratic National Committee employees were also evacuated after a suspicious package was found.
The violence in Capitol has temporarily postponed Congress’ counting of electoral votes necessary to formally name former Vice President Joe Biden as the president-elect.