YouTube Suspended Trump’s Channel Because of His Supporters' Comments

YouTube said the channel has been suspended for a minimum of a week for violating policies around inciting violence.
January 13, 2021, 11:33am
YouTube Suspended Trump’s Channel Because of His Supporters’ Comments
Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

YouTube has joined Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Twitch, Pinterest, Snapchat, Shopify, and TikTok in taking action against President Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol riot.

But it seems it wasn’t just Trump’s words that got him suspended from the world’s largest video-sharing website; it was those of his supporters.

YouTube announced Tuesday evening it was issuing a “first strike” against Trump’s account for posting a new video that incited violence. This means that Trump’s account can’t upload new videos for at least a week and possibly further. The video, which showed Trump answering reporters’ questions before his speech in Texas on Tuesday, has been removed outright from Trump’s account by YouTube, although copies of it are still available via other YouTube accounts.

While Trump can’t post new videos, all other videos remain accessible on his channel.

“After careful review, and in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to the Donald J. Trump channel and issued a strike for violating our policies for inciting violence,” a YouTube media account tweeted. “As a result, in accordance with our long-standing strikes system, the channel is now prevented from uploading new videos or live streams for a minimum of seven days—which may be extended.”

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YouTube would not clarify which comments exactly triggered the suspension, but a source at the company told VICE News that the decision also took into account recent events and the increased risk of violence.

YouTube has also gone further and disabled comments on all of Trump’s videos after his supporters began interpreting comments the president made in the video posted Tuesday.

The now-deleted video showed Trump answering reporters’ questions about his role in the Capitol attacks last week when many viewed his speech on the morning of the attack as one of the factors that triggered the violent scenes.

Trump dismissed any responsibility saying his speech was “totally appropriate,” adding that Congress’s attempt to impeach him for a second time was  “causing tremendous anger.”

But it was other comments that appeared to animate the president’s supporters, according to a tweet by New York Times reporter Davey Alba. 

The commenters flagged that Trump said “there is always a countermove” and "we have support.” When combined with Trump’s claim in a video last week that “this is just the beginning,” these comments were taken as some indication that Trump was planning some move to remain in power.

Such comments echo those shared widely by adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory that has helped push the baseless narrative that the presidential election was stolen in recent months.

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YouTube said it was disabling comments due to “ongoing concerns about violence,” a punishment it says it has applied to other channels “where there are safety concerns found in the comments section.”

Trump mostly used YouTube to post videos of his press conferences and TV appearances, rather than posting the more incendiary content he posted on Facebook or Twitter. But with Trump already permanently banned from Twitter and “indefinitely” banned from Facebook, YouTube comments were one of the few remaining mainstream platforms where Trump supporters could easily congregate online.

YouTube’s decision came only after most other platforms had already taken action against the president and its sluggish response has been widely criticized.

Last year it was slow to act against prominent QAnon channels that were radicalizing users and then it faced further criticism for its light-touch approach to labeling election misinformation — much of it pushed Trump’s own channel.

YouTube’s action against Trump is also too little, too late critics say.

“A minimum 7-day suspension is an important & necessary first step by YouTube. We hope they will make it permanent,” Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit news media watchdog group, tweeted after YouTube announced the suspension. 

“It is disappointing that it took a Trump-incited attack to get here, but appears that the major platforms are finally beginning to step up,” Steyer added.