Jan 13, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech scrambles to prevent inauguration threats

Illustration of the Capitol dome with police tape in front featuring binary code
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech companies are scrambling to take action to prevent Inauguration Day violence, taking matters into their own hands after the government was caught ill-prepared for last week's Capitol siege.

What's happening: Major firms are taking a range of steps to stop their platforms from being used to plan, incite or carry out violent acts in Washington, D.C.

Driving the news: Airbnb said Wednesday it is canceling existing reservations and blocking new ones in and around Washington, D.C., during inauguration week as federal officials remain on alert for potential violence.

  • Facebook says it's seeing more calls for violence as it monitors conversations on other websites. On its own platform, it's working to immediately remove content that could encourage future violence, including praise or positive representations of the attack on the Capitol.
  • Google told advertisers Wednesday that it would ban political ads, as well as any ads related to the Capitol insurrection, in an effort to reduce misinformation and abuse following the attack. Google rival Facebook's ad ban is still in place, and sources say it will likely remain until sometime after the inauguration.
  • YouTube said Tuesday that it has taken down newly posted video content from President Trump for violating its policies against inciting violence. In addition, the Google-owned platform has issued a "strike" against Trump's account, meaning the president can't upload new videos or livestream for at least a week.
  • Twitter has suspended more than 70,000 accounts for sharing QAnon content, and it's blocked keywords from its search and trending features that break its rules related to civic integrity and glorification of violence.

The big picture: Government failures to lead society through a slew of problems over the past year — from political unrest to the coronavirus pandemic — have led the public to place its trust in corporations to tackle society's biggest threats.

  • In addition to tech firms, many travel companies are also putting policies in place to address potential violence.
  • Various travel trade groups have called for banning the passengers involved with the mob on flights to D.C.

Between the lines: These efforts aren't entirely altruistic. Companies are also trying to avoid blame for potentially providing platforms for domestic terrorists to plot attacks.

  • In the past week, many tech firms have banned accounts belonging to Trump and a growing list of fringe-right users in an effort to stop extremists from planning attacks or inciting further violence.
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