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Shopify deplatforms Trump

Crowds gather outside the U.S. Capitol for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 in Washington, D.C. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
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E-commerce giant Shopify has removed from its platform all online stores run by the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign following a deadly riot on Capitol Hill. A Shopify spokesperson told The Logic the sites were taken down on Thursday morning after President Donald Trump sparked the insurrection by encouraging supporters to protest against the ceremonial counting of electoral votes confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win. 

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“Shopify does not tolerate actions that incite violence. Based on recent events, we have determined that the actions by President Donald J. Trump violate our Acceptable Use Policy…. As a result, we have terminated stores affiliated with President Trump,” reads a statement from the company.

Visitors to sites that hosted Trump merchandise are now greeted with an error message. 

But…

While the Trump sites have been removed, the Shopify store set up by the family of Kyle Rittenhouse—charged in the killings of two men at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Kenosha, Wis.—is still up. Shopify did not respond Thursday to The Logic’s latest questions about whether the store violates its policies.

The dichotomy between Shopify’s response to Trump and Rittenhouse isn’t the first time the e-commerce company has come under scrutiny for the company it allows on its platform.  

In November 2018, Shopify removed the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates a hate group—and whose members participated in the insurrection on Wednesday, as well as rallies in other cities—citing updates to its Acceptable Use Policy, following longstanding criticism. Sleeping Giants—an activist group that advocates for advertisers and tech platforms to stop supporting hate-spreading outlets—has repeatedly called for Shopify to drop far-right outlet Breitbart. It hasn’t.

Social media unites against Trump

Shopify’s actions against the outgoing U.S. president come amid a widespread crackdown by social media companies against Trump, who for years has used their platforms to incite his base and lash out against detractors. Following Twitter’s 12-hour lockout of Trump’s accounts, Facebook and Instagram suspended Trump’s accounts for two weeks, or “until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” 

In a post on Thursday morning, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platforms were being used to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” and thus the “risks” of allowing Trump to continue using its services “are simply too great.” 

Snapchat has also locked Trump’s account. And YouTube said it would temporarily restrict the channels of the president and others if they continue to spread misinformation about the 2020 election results. “Channels that receive a strike are temporarily suspended from posting or live streaming. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube,” the Google-owned company said. Amazon’s live-streaming platform Twitch also joined the growing movement to deplatform Trump, citing the U.S. president’s “incendiary rhetoric.” 

Platforms face increasing criticism

Critics were quick to slam Big Tech’s delayed reaction to de-platforming Trump and far-right groups that have long used social media platforms to spread disinformation and shape public discourse. 

“You’ve got blood on your hands, @jack and Zuck,” tweeted prominent venture capitalist Chris Sacca. “For four years you’ve rationalized this terror. Inciting violent treason is not a free speech exercise…. Shut it down.” 

Mere hours into the breach of the U.S. Capitol, civil rights groups called for social media companies to suspend Trump’s platforms, for fear that he would continue encouraging the rioters. 

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“Two bare minimum tweets after the Capitol has been stormed by extremists is too little, too late. @jack, it’s overdue to suspend @realDonaldTrump until his account stops promoting disinformation and inciting violence,” tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

Facebook and Twitter began flagging Trump’s tweets for misinformation and adding labels to correct posts in the lead-up to the 2020 election, but this is the first time both companies have gone as far as suspending his accounts.