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Finally, After Five Years, Digital Platforms Slam Their Brakes on the Trump Train

Words by Leon Kaye

Editor's note: On Friday afternoon, January 8, Twitter announced it had put a permanent ban on the account of Donald Trump.

For several years, critics of social media companies urged them to kick the current U.S. president off their platforms, or at least find a way to rein him in. Those companies, including Twitter, countered that no matter what one may have thought of Donald Trump’s ongoing behavior, as a leading political figure there was value in giving the public an opportunity to interact with him. Twitter eventually began to affix advisory labels on many of the tweets in which Trump made dubious claims about issues including, of course, the U.S. 2020 election.

In any event, we witnessed how that all panned out on Wednesday afternoon as domestic terrorists briefly took over the U.S. Capitol.

The reaction was swift, as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter either temporarily suspended, locked or banned Trump’s access. Twitter was the first platform to bend, as it reversed its suspension just in time for Trump to post a video saying he would be part of the peaceful transition of power. Nevertheless, calls to impeach or invoke the 25th Amendment keep growing louder. Meanwhile, more officials, the most recent being Education Secretary Betsy Devos, have headed to the exits.

But if you really want to enact change or fight back against horrid behavior, one tactic is to hit them in the pocketbook, as opponents of the current administration’s policies have tried to accomplish over the past four years.

To that end, Ottawa-based Shopify, a popular e-commerce platform, yesterday announced that not only would it remove the Trump campaign's merchandising site from its portfolio, but also another Trump-owned site that pitched all types of swag with the Trump name. Shopify cited its terms of use policy, which includes a provision prohibiting any individuals or organizations that threaten or support any form of violence.

Shopify’s decision puts pressure on additional e-commerce companies, including Amazon, Etsy and eBay. The latter still listed resellers pitching T-shirts emblazoned with the term “MAGA Civil War January 6, 2021” until Thursday evening, when news outlets including Vox reported that eBay pulled those listings and issued a statement saying it has a policy to “remove any merchandise glorifying the violence on Capitol Hill.”

In recent years, Spotify caught flak for doing business with sites accused of engaging in hate speech, such as Breitbart. CEO Tobias Lütke said Shopify is a “platform without restriction” and that it would make “decisions based on judgement when there is not a black and white, or even existing, legal solution.”

But the clear role Trump had in fomenting Wednesday’s violence was a bridge too far for Shopify — we’ll find out in the next few days whether “free speech” or taking a stand against violence and sedition is worth alignment with what is clearly becoming the increasingly toxic Trump brand.

Image credit: Voice of America/Wiki Commons

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.

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