Facebook’s Supervisory Board will announce on Wednesday whether former President Donald Trump will be allowed to post again on Facebook’s platforms, which include both Facebook and Instagram. The company first removed a video and message from Trump, then suspended the then president’s accounts for 24 hours on January 6. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote the next day that “the risks of allowing the president to continue using our service during this period are just too long,” along with an indefinite suspension.
After Trump stepped down, the company then decided to reactivate its accounts with Facebook’s supervisory board – made up of outside experts with its own staff created and funded by Facebook. Launched in October 2020 to hear appeals for Facebook’s moderation decisions, the board has now apparently made a decision on Trump’s fate.
And although the board has overturned the company’s moderation decisions in four of its first five cases – with board member Alan Rusbridger saying the board believes “you start with the supremacy of free speech” – the supervisory board should not restore Trump’s accounts.
Facebook and Twitter are two of Trump’s main tools in his attempt to steal a presidential election.
In fact, he must first recommend Trump’s permanent and formal suspension, to which Facebook should acquiesce. And then Facebook should move on to the necessary work of disclosing a full set of data to the public about the activity of its platform, so that the American public can begin to understand the true extent of the damage it has inflicted on. our democracy using their platform. Next, Facebook and its Supervisory Board are expected to examine how its inadequate rules and deference to power allowed Facebook and Instagram to become a primary vehicle through which the President of the United States attempted to subvert and to dismantle American democracy.
After all, images of violent rioters storming the Capitol on January 6 are forever etched in national consciousness, and months of Trump surrogates parrots the big lie into the microphones offered to them on television, at the radio and in the parking lots of urban landscaping companies have created a cacophony of deception, amplified on social networks, that will be difficult to get out of our collective heads.
Yet, aside from a few brief White House speeches, the President was unusually calm during the period when these previously often unknown surrogates were propagating what we now call the Big Lie.
Trump’s public absence during this period was, in retrospect, pronounced and unusual: between election night of November 4 and January 6 – a 65-day period – he only appeared on camera 28 times according to my count, a remarkably small number of appearances. for a president notoriously hungry for publicity. (By comparison, after less than six months in office, when he went five days without an appearance on camera, it made headlines; after his first two years, he had made nearly 600 such appearances, according to an analysis by the Association of White House Correspondents.)
Facebook should examine how they allowed their services to become the primary means by which the President of the United States has attempted to subvert democracy.
And he pushed lies about the election in just 18 of those post-election appearances.
With so few appearances on camera, how did the Big Lie permeate so quickly? Well, while Trump didn’t appear on camera, he stayed on the line. He posted on his personal social media accounts over 2,200 times between the election and the insurgency: using Trump’s Twitter archives, I counted over 1,520 tweets on his personal account and, with help from Media Matters and using the Newswhip tool, I found at least 757 Facebook posts.
And, of the 29 tweets used as evidence by House impeachment officials who tried Trump in the Senate for “inciting insurgency against the Republic he had sworn to protect,” 22 of they appeared in identical forms on Facebook.
It’s clear, in other words, that two of Trump’s main tools in his attempt to steal a presidential election were Facebook and Twitter.
The reach of these messages is astounding and disturbing. Trump has posted at least 757 times to his more than 32 million Facebook followers, and at least 447 of those posts have been tagged by Facebook as potentially containing election misinformation. A closer look reveals that at least 225 positions included fraudulent claims of victory, baseless allegations of electoral fraud, or delusional narratives of how the results of a democratic election might one way or another. be modified or manipulated after the fact. Those 225 posts received at least 109,936,145 total interactions – a statistic that includes shares, comments, reactions, but does not include the number of people who simply saw the post – and were redistributed over 7 million of times.
Facebook (and Twitter) enabled, amplified, and benefited from millions of people’s interactions with the Trump campaign’s blatant attempt to steal an election
Trump was reluctant – or, perhaps because of his sheer nonsense, unable – to appear on camera to present his bogus case of electoral fraud and thankfully most of the media responsible have refrained from engaging with her .
But Facebook (and Twitter) allowed, amplified, and benefited from the interactions of millions of people with the Trump campaign’s blatant attempt to steal an election. The American public doesn’t know how many people read Trump’s social media posts on the Big Lie – companies do, but none provide them with public data – and it’s impossible to quantify how they impacted. in the social media ecosystem, in private groups. or private messages. But with over 100 million combined followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, coupled with the platform the U.S. Presidency already provides, I’m confident to say that its posts, full of lies and propaganda aimed at overthrow a free and democratic election, has reached far more people than we know.
And if the Facebook Supervisory Board lets Trump come back to Facebook and Instagram, he will surely re-launch his assault on democracy. And if we let Facebook (or Twitter) get away with letting it go so far before stopping it, they’ll do it all over again.
We must force Facebook and then Twitter to take whatever measures are necessary at their disposal to prevent their platforms from being used by political leaders to re-spread propaganda aimed at undermining democracies, both here in the United States and in the United States. other countries. We cannot afford to make them make the same mistakes again; our democracy may not survive the second round.