The Twitter logo is displayed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. File photo: REUTERS
The Twitter logo is displayed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. File photo: REUTERS

Tokyo — Tech firms tried to contain a mounting backlash against their social media sites, with shares of Twitter and Facebook falling in early trading on Monday and rival platform Parler forced offline by Amazon.com. 

Twitter fell 6.9% in premarket trading in New York after it banned President Donald Trump permanently for risking incitement to violence, citing posts referring to riots in the US capital last week, removing one of Twitter’s biggest accounts. Facebook’s shares were down 1.7%.

Free speech-centric network Parler, led by CEO John Matze, was taken offline early on Monday after Amazon Web Services shut down access to its servers, leaving it without an online home. Both Google and Apple kicked Parler from their stores, making it almost impossible to download the app.

The tech giants are trying to distance themselves from accusations that they helped fuel the violence during the storming of the Capitol in Washington on January 6 by a mob encouraged by Trump. So far, Parler hasn’t been able to find other web-hosting services willing to step in because of the negative publicity stemming from the violence, organised in part on its own platform.

“This is not due to software restrictions. We have our software and everyone’s data ready to go,” said Matze. “Rather it’s that Amazon’s, Google’s and Apple’s statements to the press about dropping our access has caused most of our other vendors to drop their support for us as well.”

Even e-commerce or payments sites are now reassessing doing business with companies linked to Trump. Financial services company Stripe will stop processing payments for Trump’s campaign website, according to a person familiar with the decision. Shopify also shut down e-commerce stores affiliated with Trump.

Before last week’s violence, legislators and civil rights advocates had long been putting pressure on social media platforms to crack down on posts that encourage violence or hatred. While regulators in Europe have passed laws fining firms that fail to act on hate speech, the US has largely left regulation up to the companies. Twitter first put warning labels on Trump’s tweets that supported the Capitol rioters, then hid them, before suspending the account.

Despite his success on Twitter and Facebook, Trump has been among those calling for reforms to the social media platforms. The president has long demanded that Congress revoke Section 230, a liability waiver that social media companies depend upon to allow unfettered speech on their platforms.

During his last week in office, Trump may look to push through changes to Section 230. He has also prepared several executive orders related to the big tech companies but it is not clear if any will be issued.

“I’m more determined than ever to strip Section 230 protections from Big Tech (Twitter) that let them be immune from lawsuits,” senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, tweeted.

Bloomberg

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