It took a riot in the U.S. Capitol that threatened our democracy and left five people dead for Facebook and Twitter to finally accept responsibility for their roles as America’s largest purveyors of disinformation and hate.

For years, the tech giants and other social media companies have largely turned a blind eye to falsehoods permeating their platforms and threatening the stability of our government and our elections.

The mob that breached the Capitol Building last week apparently woke them up — at least for now.

Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday banned President Trump from Facebook “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks.” Jack Dorsey on Friday permanently suspended Trump’s Twitter account due to the risk of “further incitement of violence.”

The question is whether Zuckerberg and Dorsey will act responsibly to permanently try to purge misinformation and dangerous content from their social media platforms. They should. Or whether their unending thirst for profits will drive a return to business as usual when the furor dies down.

Twitter and Facebook have become leading purveyors of news. A Pew Research Center survey showed that two-thirds of Americans at least occasionally get their news from social media platforms. With that comes the responsibility to work to ensure its accuracy and eliminate dangerous misinformation.

Unfortunately, the social media giants have repeatedly ignored that responsibility. For four years, they let the president of the United States sow division in our country. The steady diet of lies provided the foundation for last week’s riots by people who continue to believe the president’s falsehoods about a rigged election.

Ten years ago, tech was one of the most trusted industries in the world. But a 2018 Edelman survey revealed that only 30% of Americans trust social media platforms. And that was before the 2020 election and the latest round of political misinformation and violence.

Facebook and Twitter are at a critical juncture. President Trump won’t be the last public figure, nor will Russia be the last foreign country, to try to manipulate social media for dangerous political agendas. If the companies won’t decisively clean up their acts, government intervention will be inevitable and necessary.

But Congress has shown time and again that it does not understand how the industry works. Zuckerberg and Dorsey would be much better off if they took the lead — if they aggressively purged disinformation from their platforms.

There’s no doubt that doing the right thing will be costly in the short run for the companies. Twitter’s stock fell by as much as 12% on Monday during the first day of trading after the permanent ban on Trump, costing it $5 billion in market value. Facebook tumbled as much as 4.5% on Monday, erasing $33.6 billion in its market capitalization. But the companies’ long-term survivals depend on responsible behavior.

Facebook and Twitter did the right thing last week when they banned Trump’s access to their platforms. The social media companies should now act on what may be their last opportunity to self-govern their platforms in a more responsible manner.


By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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