Airbnb, Google move to curb organised inauguration violence

National Guard members stand guard near the US Capitol building as lawmakers debate impeaching President Donald Trump on Jan 13, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Airbnb and Google on Wednesday (Jan 13) unveiled steps aimed at heading off attacks on US democracy as inauguration day neared for President-elect Joe Biden.

The leading home-sharing platform put out word it is banning bookings in Washington around the time of Biden's Jan 20 inauguration after local authorities asked people to stay away following the attack on the US Capitol.

"We are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, DC metro area during the inauguration week," the company said in a statement.

Airbnb will also block any new reservations for the US capital region.

Google joined the effort to curb new attacks, confirming it is temporarily halting political ads on its platform starting Thursday and at least until the day after Biden is inaugurated.

Google said it is suspending political ads in addition to any ads referencing impeachment; the inauguration, or protests at the US Capitol.

"We regularly pause ads over unpredictable, 'sensitive' events when ads can be used to exploit the event or amplify misleading information," Google said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"Beyond this, we have long-standing policies blocking content that incites violence or promotes hate and we will be extremely vigilant about enforcing on any ads that cross this line."

Google sent a letter to advertisers explaining the hiatus on political ads, saying there would be no exemptions for news or merchandise ads.

SPH Brightcove Video
YouTube said on Tuesday it has suspended Donald Trump's channel as it violated policies for inciting violence after last week's assault on the US Capitol by the president's supporters.

The suspension will apply across the platform, including video-sharing platform YouTube and Google Ads network, the Silicon Valley company told advertisers in a letter seen by AFP.

"We will carefully examine a number of factors before deciding to lift this policy for advertisers and share updates as we have them," Google said in the letter.

Trump unplugged

The move comes on the heels of YouTube temporarily suspending President Donald Trump's channel and removing a video for violating its policy against inciting violence, joining other social media platforms in banning his accounts after last week's Capitol riot.

Trump's access to the social media platforms he has used as a megaphone during his presidency has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington DC last week.

Operators say the embittered leader could use his accounts to foment more unrest in the run-up to Biden's inauguration.

"In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to Donald J. Trump's channel for violating our policies," YouTube said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The channel is now "temporarily prevented from uploading new content for a 'minimum' of 7 days," the statement read.

The video-sharing platform also said it will be "indefinitely disabling comments" on Trump's channel because of safety concerns.

Mobs of supporters of outgoing president Trump's attacked the Capitol last week as lawmakers convened to certify Biden's victory in the November's election.

Some of the rioters stayed at Airbnb rentals in the city and its suburbs.

Facing the possibility of renewed protests from Trump supporters who believe the false claims that the elections were rigged, residents in the city had called on neighbours with Airbnbs not to rent during Biden's swearing-in.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday also asked visitors to stay home.

"We are asking Americans not to come to Washington DC for the 59th presidential inauguration on Jan 20 and to instead participate virtually," she said.

Airbnb said it also was investigating whether people named as participants in the Capitol attack by law enforcement had used their services.

"Through this work, we have identified numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building, and they have been banned from Airbnb's platform," the company said.

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