Hong Kong fans of Donald Trump are changing their Twitter icons to support the US president and protest the company for suspending his account.
Comparing Twitter’s decision to ban Trump with the Chinese authorities’ use of censorship to silent opposition voices, Hongkongers switched their profile pictures to portraits of Trump over the weekend, accusing social media platforms of violating rights to free speech.
Twitter suspended Trump’s account on Saturday, explaining that the outgoing president risks inciting further violence after encouraging his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6. His supporters, some of them armed, smashed their way through the building as they threatened to shoot reporters and destroyed their equipment. The storming resulted in at least five deaths.
Trump’s tweets, the company said, breach Twitter’s policy against the glorification of violence.
One of leader’s last tweets before the ban read: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
On popular forum LIHKG, users called on each other to change their Twitter icons to Trump portraits and switch to conservative social media platforms MeWe, Gab and Parler. The platforms’ free speech, no-censorship policies have allowed misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories to spread unchecked.
— HoSaiLei🃏 (@hkbhkese) January 9, 2021
“I think [Twitter’s banning of Trump] is not acceptable,” one Twitter user whose icon has been changed to a Trump portrait told Coconuts.
“Why has the company not banned other accounts also appearing to spread fake news or incite violence?” The user added, suggesting Twitter was biased in suspending Trump.
Last June, Twitter said it removed over 32,000 Twitter accounts with ties to propaganda networks in mainland China, Russia and Turkey. But no high-profile leaders have targeted.
Facebook and Instagram have also placed indefinite bans on Trump’s accounts.
Hongkongers’ divisive views of Trump have driven a wedge through the city’s pro-democracy movement, supporters of which pride themselves on unity against a common enemy—the Chinese Communist Party.
Many Hongkongers favor Trump due to his anti-China stance, while those identifying closer with left-wing ideology see his peddling of election misinformation and refusal to accept defeat in the presidential vote as an assault on US democracy.