San Francisco: Former US president Donald Trump will be allowed to return to YouTube and post videos again once the risk of political violence in the US subsides, the company says.
Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive, confirmed on Thursday that Trump would be given a second chance to follow its rules, although she did not say when.
Susan Wojcicki, chief executive of YouTube, says Donald Trump will be allowed to return to YouTube and post videos again.Credit:Bloomberg
The Google-owned streaming service had previously given no indication whether it would ever lift Trump’s indefinite ban, imposed following the rioting at the US Capitol in January.
Wojcicki’s statement sets YouTube firmly against rivals such as Twitter, which has vowed never to allow Trump back even if he runs for office again, and Facebook, which has referred the case to be decided by its independent oversight board.
It came as US officials on Thursday once again put the Capitol on high alert due to warnings from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that members of the QAnon movement might be plotting an attack.
The Capitol grounds were ringed with boosted security and defended by armed police officers, National Guard troops and bomb-sniffing dogs, while the House of Representatives cancelled its session and told staff to stay away.
National Guard keep watch on the Capito on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit:AP
“Given the warnings by the Capitol Police about a potential attack, I think it’s pretty clear that elevated violence risk still remains,” Wojcicki said.
However, despite the warnings, there were no signs of disturbance at the heavily secured building. Nor was there evidence of any large group heading to Washington.
The threat appeared to be connected to QAnon’s conspiracy theory that Trump would rise again to power on March 4 and that thousands would come to Washington to try to remove Democrats from office. March 4 was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to January 20.
But Trump was in Florida. In Washington, on one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost deserted, save for joggers, journalists, and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fencing.
“I do want to confirm that we will lift the suspension of the Donald Trump channel when we determine that the risk of violence has decreased,” Wojcicki said. “When the channel is reinstated, it will be subject to the same policies that every other channel follows.”
Wojcicki said that YouTube would determine the risk of violence by looking at signals such as government statements and warnings, increased law enforcement around the country and violent rhetoric on the platform itself.
“We will turn the account back on,” she said. “But it will be when we see the reduced law enforcement in capitals in the US; if we don’t see different warnings coming out of government agencies, those would all be signals to us that it would be safe to turn the channel back on.”
Under YouTube’s policies, if an account has three “strikes” in a 90-day period it will be terminated. The suspension of Trump’s account, for a minimum of a week, was because it gained a first “strike”. YouTube also indefinitely disabled comments under videos on the channel.
Having access to YouTube again could transform Trump’s chances of a political revival, allowing him to address his followers directly in a way he has struggled to do since his mass deplatforming in January.
But it could also allow him to resume pumping out misinformation, conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric to his supporters, who polls suggest largely still believe the election was stolen.
Wojcicki aimed veiled criticism at Facebook and Twitter for their policy of exempting political leaders from some of their rules, with posts that would normally be removed only being labelled as they were deemed “newsworthy” or in the “public interest”.
“[Our] policies apply to all global leaders consistently. There are no exceptions,” she said.
The Telegraph, London; AP, Reuters
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