Twitter cited dangerous talk and online planning in banning Trump’s account

The Washington Post: Craig Timbers

The planning for Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol happened largely in plain view, with chatters in far-right forums explicitly discussing how to storm the building, handcuff lawmakers with zip ties and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election — in what they portrayed as responding to orders from President Trump.

This went far beyond the widely reported, angry talk about thronging Washington that day. Trump supporters exchanged detailed tactical advice about what to bring and what to do once they assembled at the Capitol to conduct “citizen’s arrests” of members of Congress. One poster said, “[expletive] zip ties. I’m bringing rope!”

Such comments were not confined to dark corners of the Web. They were scooped up and catalogued by researchers who made their findings public weeks before a seemingly unprepared Capitol Police force was overrun by thousands of rioters, in an incident that left one officer, one rioter and three other people dead.

Twitter braces for Washington and Wall Street fallout after banning Trump

The question left unanswered is why authorities didn’t prepare more effectively for a storm that many outsiders saw looming on the horizon — especially when those planning the assault were so open about their intentions.

“Given the very clear and explicit warning signs — with Trump supporters expressing prior intent to ‘storm and occupy Congress’ and use ‘handcuffs and zip ties,’ clear plans being laid out on public forums, and the recent precedent of the plot to storm the Michigan Capitol building while the legislature was in session — it is truly mind-boggling that the police were not better prepared,” said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which was among the research groups that detailed what was coming in the weeks before the Capitol was attacked. It recapped much of this evidence in a report published Saturday.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Twitter bans Trump’s account, citing risk of further violence

The desire to prevent a repeat of Wednesday’s attack helped drive Twitter’s decision to suspend Trump’s account after years in which he challenged the company’s policies against hate speech and inciting violence. The two tweets the company cited in its announcement Friday night were tamer than many during his candidacy or his presidency, but Twitter said it was particularly concerned about contributing to a possible “secondary attack” on the U.S. Capitol and state government facilities the weekend of Jan. 16-17.

Concerns about more violent incidents appear to be well-founded. Calls for widespread protests on the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden have been rampant online for weeks. These demonstrations are scheduled to culminate with what organizers have dubbed a “Million Militia March” on Jan. 20 as Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris are to be sworn in on the same Capitol grounds that rioters overran on Wednesday. “We all knew that tens of thousands of extremists would converge on D.C. Wednesday, so there’s no excuse for the resourcing failure,” said Brian Harrell, a former Trump administration Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary for infrastructure protection, who is now chief security officer for Avangrid, an energy company. “Law enforcement was ill-prepared for an event the entire country knew was coming, and one that [the president] has been signaling for weeks. ... It’s shocking.”

Trump was a center of gravity on Twitter. What’s it like without him?

The renewed calls to action in recent days have bristled with violent talk and vows to bring guns to Washington in defiance of the city’s strict weapons laws. A new analysis of such posts by Alethea Group, an organization combating disinformation that draws its name from the Greek word for “truth,” found abundant evidence of threatening plans on a range of platforms large and small.

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