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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech employees are on high alert about their own personal safety as their employers roll out policies to ban or limit the reach of far-right extremists angry over former President Donald Trump's defeat.

Why it matters: As tech companies impose aggressive policies after the Capitol riot, employees will be the target of vitriol from aggrieved people who think tech and the media are conspiring to silence Trump and conservatives more broadly.

What's happening: Facebook told its employees shortly after the Capitol riot not to wear company-branded gear or carry company-branded accessories, The Information reported.

  • On Tuesday, Facebook wrote in an internal post that it has not identified any credible threats targeting employees or work spaces but that employees should remain vigilant, a Facebook employee told Axios.
  • One employee at a major tech firm told Axios they were told to remove their name from a quote about a particular deplatforming decision for their own safety, and received threatening messages on LinkedIn about the change.
  • Some Twitter employees made their accounts private and hid their employer from their online profiles to avoid attention from Trump supporters, and several Twitter executives now have personal security, the New York Times reported.

Companies were reluctant to share details about the security measures they put in place.

Meanwhile: In pro-Trump online communities, vague threats about a reckoning coming for Big Tech companies are circulating widely, as they have been for some time.

  • If there are more specific plots to attack tech companies, they're being cooked up in more private channels.
  • Last week, Trump supporters' plans to mount a protest at Twitter's offices in San Francisco set some observers on edge, but the event was a bust (and Twitter employees are working from home due to the pandemic anyway).

Still, the concern over the possibility of an attack is very real. And there's precedent for tech employees being in put in danger as a result of company policy decisions.

Flashback: In 2018, a woman opened fire at YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., wounding three people before fatally shooting herself.

  • Police believe the woman, Nasim Aghdam, was motivated by YouTube demonetizing and limiting the reach of her videos.

The big picture: Tech platforms have moved against the far right this month, worried over the risk of Trump and others inciting more violence following the Capitol attack.

  • They're also less concerned about GOP backlash to moderation decisions now that Republicans are out of power in the White House and both chambers of Congress.

What's next: As the Biden presidency kicks off and the public hears from Trump via other mediums, the vitriol against employees may subside, at least from public view.

  • Yes, but: We can't see what's going on in encrypted communications channels, where far-right groups and Trump supporters are increasingly moving after being kicked off mainstream channels.

Go deeper

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Facebook seeks a new head of U.S. public policy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook is looking externally for a new U.S. policy chief as it moves Kevin Martin, a Republican who now holds the job, to a different position, per a memo seen by Axios.

Between the lines: Facebook is moving on from the Trump era in which Republicans held most of the power in Washington and Facebook was particularly eager among tech companies to forge warm relations with GOP policymakers.

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being.