Double standards on Trump, HK riots
US social media have long way to go regarding internet regulation: experts
Published: Jan 10, 2021 08:18 PM

File photo: CFP

US social media platforms' sharply contrasting reactions to US President Donald Trump's messages of violent content and those of Hong Kong rioters have fully exposed their double standards when they spare no efforts to criticize other nations' "violations of free speech" while taking drastic moves to restrict the speech of their own incumbent president, Chinese observers said.

Using the excuse of the potential risk of further incitement of violence, social media platform Twitter announced Friday the permanent suspension of Trump's account.

Google and Apple followed suit. Shortly after Twitter announced that it would suspend Trump's account, Google said that it was removing Parler, a conservative social media app, from its Play Store. Google said the app was suspended until the developers committed to a moderation and enforcement policy that could handle objectionable content on the platform.

Late Saturday, Apple removed Parler from the App Store. 

"We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity," Apple said in a statement provided to weekly magazine Variety.

Twitter also removed the accounts of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser who has received a presidential pardon, and pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, for breaching policies that ban users from engaging in "coordinated activity" that results in online and real-world harm. 

Twitter and Facebook failed to reply to the Global Times as of press time.

The moves are totally in sharp contrast to these platforms' reactions to violent riots in Hong Kong in 2019, which dragged the city into chaos lasting about one year and inflicted huge financial losses. 

In addition to allowing speeches that spread and stirred violence, foreign social platforms Facebook, Twitter and Telegram have been popular tools for Hong Kong rioters to call for illegal assemblies and to doxx police officers. Posts promoting Hong Kong secession are rife on these platforms, the Global Times previously learned from the Hong Kong police. 

Platforms such as Telegram have fallen into rioters' hands. These companies have always refused to cooperate with police on law enforcement issues, and because there were no legal terms, they only operated under corporation status, Ronny Chan, chairman of the Superintendents' Association of the Hong Kong Police Force, told the Global Times previously. 

In early August 2019, Facebook and Twitter started to take down accounts from China in relation to protests in Hong Kong, facing strong backlash as many users complained that their Facebook and Twitter accounts were blocked after they voiced support for the Hong Kong police and posted pictures featuring the Chinese national flag. 

Twitter user Sheryl's account was blocked just after she liked her idol Lay Zhang Yixing's post supporting Hong Kong police and a few comments denouncing violence protesters.     

In the US, social media platforms are actually private platforms with public attributes, which means they are controlled by capital or tilted toward a certain party.  If someone violates the interests of the capital invested in them, the person will get banned, Shen Yi from the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University told the Global Times on Sunday.

Shen said that those platforms have a long way to go regarding internet regulation. "China has regulated the internet to provide a healthy online environment for the public; but US platforms started an internet purge because those platforms are tilting toward certain political parties, and some speeches are not in line with the political interests they uphold," Shen noted. 

The suspension of Trump and his followers' accounts also stirred waves of mockery on the Chinese internet.

"The Hong Kong rioters who were actively inciting violence far outnumbered the US protesters, and lasted longer, why didn't they ban them? Those platforms will lose their moral high ground of advertising freedom of speech forever," a user of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform said.