Meta has granted access to its most controversial user, former President Donald Trump, to Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook and Instagram, along with Twitter, YouTube and Snap, suspended Trump after the former president praised the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He used Facebook to instigate a “violent riot” against American democracy.
Two years later, Mehta said Trump no longer poses an imminent danger to public safety.On Wednesday, it said it would end the suspension of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. The decision follows Twitter’s call last month to lift a permanent ban on Trump.
Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, said in the company’s blog post: “But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform.”
In the post, Clegg wrote that Meta determined that the risks to public safety had “regressed sufficiently”, but Meta contributed to “the kinds of risks that materialized on Jan. 6,” such as the post. He said he would add new guardrails to Trump’s future posts if he did. Deny the legitimacy of an election or endorse QAnon. New penalties include Mehta limiting the reach of Trump’s posts on her Facebook feed, restricting access to advertising tools, and removing the re-share button from offending posts. . If Trump continues to violate Facebook’s rules, the company could suspend him for one month to two years.
Indeed, the United States is no longer in the midst of a change of government between presidents, nor under a nationwide pandemic lockdown that has sparked political frustration.
But the one thing not Trump himself has changed. The former president has not retracted his denial of the election, which he said was the January 6 mob that sparked the riots. He continues to spread false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and attacks local election officials whose job it is to count ballots. , and he for promoting conspiracy theories like QAnon. His supporters’ belief that the election was stolen has made democracy experts, and three in five Americans, fear more violence could occur during the 2024 presidential election. I’m here.
If Trump does indeed start using Facebook again (which seems likely), every time he posts election lies and veiled threats or magnifies dangerous QAnon theories, The company must determine whether the posting violates the rules and what the consequences will be.
“People will scrutinize every post Trump posts,” said Katie Harbus, a former Facebook public policy director who now runs her technology policy consulting firm Anchor Change. ‘ said. She added that if Trump were to return, “life would be hell” for platforms like Facebook.
The meta should be tightened. During Trump’s presidency, Facebook faced employee riots, boycotts from major advertisers, and political backlash from Democratic leaders over Trump’s postings on the platform. The past two years since Trump’s ban have been a reprieve from having to minimize the influence of public opinion on Trump’s posts.
Now Trump is Facebook’s problem again.
Why Trump might actually return to Facebook
For a while, it seemed like Trump wouldn’t return to mainstream social media if he had the chance. He’s been on Twitter for his month and he hasn’t tweeted yet.
This may be due to a contractual obligation to post on the company’s social media apps. Trump is legally required to post on her Truth Social first before cross-posting on other social media platforms (although there are major exceptions for “political messages”). .
But Trump, who announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election last month, is reportedly planning to exit his exclusive deal with Truth Social and return to both Twitter and Facebook. Last week, Trump’s legal team sent a letter to Mehta, requesting a meeting with company management and urging the company to lift his suspension.
Twitter may be Trump’s platform of choice for getting media attention and sharing his unfiltered thoughts, but Facebook is the most powerful social media app for running political campaigns. . This is because Facebook has a much larger active user base (around 3 billion) compared to his over 350 million on Twitter and his 2 million on Truth Social.
“Every candidate needs to be where the voters are. Facebook is the biggest gathering place in the country when it comes to digital campaigns,” said Eric Wilson, Republican digital campaign strategist and head of the Center for Campaign Innovation at Recode. told to
Facebook is also a key mechanism for Trump’s fundraising. During Facebook’s suspension, he was not allowed to advertise or raise funds on the platform.
When Trump resumes posting to Facebook and Instagram, get ready to see more of what he’s sharing on Truth Social. Harmful election-related misinformation,” said technology watchdog Accountable Tech. He also made comments promoting election fraud conspiracy theories, which critics say encouraged harassment of election officials, including threats of hangings, firing squads, torture and bombings.
Nicole Gill, President of Accountable Tech, said “Trump’s rhetoric has gotten worse and worse” since he was suspended from Facebook. “He threw himself into the ‘big lie’ and the election denial theory.”
Last Thursday, Trump told Truth Social, “The election was rigged and stolen. wrote.
According to Facebook’s rules, posts containing claims that the 2020 election was rigged, like the one above, don’t violate the rules because they’re talking about previous elections, not the current one. But Facebook would face tough demands if Trump made such a post during the 2024 election.
Questions abound about how Facebook will handle a second Trump
Now that Trump is back on Facebook and Instagram, Mehta’s policy on political speech will come under renewed scrutiny.
Today, Facebook treats political speech in subtle ways. The company has rules banning harmful statements, such as Covid-19 health misinformation or promoting dangerous groups, but it issues “newsworthy” exceptions when it deems it to be in the public interest. to allow posting. In 2019, Clegg announced that the company would treat politicians’ speeches as newsworthy content that “in principle, should be seen and heard,” but in 2021, politicians’ content will no longer be automatically extrapolated. Newsworthy — though Facebook can make exceptions for politicians on a case-by-case basis. The bar for Facebook to actually block a politician’s speech remains high, and only if the content could cause real-world harm and the public interest in leaving the content outweighs it.
Wilson, a Republican digital strategist, has argued that Facebook should be more tolerant of political statements.
When Facebook enforces a speech policy against one politician, Mr Wilson opens the door for politicians to “reach the references” and ask Facebook to stop or limit political discourse against them. said.
It’s easier to say, “Oh, this is the standard we used to keep Trump off the platform when he was a candidate.” So let him give you five examples of where my opponent crossed that line,” Wilson told his Recode.
Other consultants and policy experts interviewed by Record, such as Casey Mattox, a lawyer and free speech expert at Americans for Prosperity, a conservative libertarian political advocacy group, said that Facebook does insisted that they should be held to the same standards as the people ofFor everyone he should set one rule and if anything Facebook should pay more Watch out for politicians because their speeches are more influential.
“I think they’re in a better position if that’s the case. [Meta] Mattox basically said, “Look, here are the rules, and the president and everyone else are expected to follow the same rules.”
One thing these consultants and experts agreed on, regardless of what they thought was the right approach, was how Facebook would enforce its policies when it came to high-profile politicians like Trump. We should be more transparent about
“This decision is important to Meta in the context of adherence to a set of rules that people can look at and see as neutral rules. [Rules] David Kaye, former United Nations expert on freedom of expression and professor of law at UC Irvine, said: “I think that’s the key.”
Meta has heard more from its oversight board (an independent group of researchers, human rights experts, and lawyers who advise the company on content decisions and policies) about its rules and the enforcement of political speech, particularly since then. It has been criticized for needing clarification. Trump decision. In response, Mehta said it would disclose any exceptions to the rule for newsworthy figures like Trump, and explained how it handled speeches at a time of heightened democratic violence. Developed the Crisis Policy Protocol.
But Meta still makes decisions behind closed doors. In deciding Trump’s reinstatement, Facebook created a special team of policy, communications and other business executives and was led by the company’s top policy, former British politician Clegg, the company said. It is The company also consulted with “outside stakeholders,” but did not disclose who they were.
If Facebook were truly transparent about Trump’s decisions, it would set itself apart from Twitter. Twitter’s fairly new CEO and owner, Elon Musk, offered little explanation for why Trump would be reinstated, other than Musk’s belief in free speech and the results of his 24-hour poll. Musk ran on his Twitter page.
Meta can be a kind of unmask here. They can really underscore the point that free speech on our platform in general is not just about the right of the speaker to say what they want,” Kay said.
No matter how Facebook justifies Trump’s continued presence on the platform, it will run amok. , in many ways it is just the beginning.