Tech

Facebook lifted the block on former President Donald Trump.

Meta is allowing its most controversial user, former President Donald Trump, to return to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook and Instagram, as well as Twitter, YouTube and Snap, removed Trump from office after the former president praised the rioters who stormed the capital on January 6, 2021. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained Trump’s suspension “indefinitely” at the time, stating that he had misplaced used Facebook to incite “violent rebellion” against American democracy.

Two years later, the Meta says Trump no longer poses an immediate threat to public safety. On Wednesday, he said he would end the suspension of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. His decision follows Twitter’s call last month to lift a permanent ban on Trump.

“The public needs to be able to hear what their politicians say – the good, the bad and the ugly – so they can make an informed choice when they vote.” Meta-President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg wrote on the company blog.. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t limits on what people can say on our platform.”

In his post, Clegg wrote that the Meta had determined that the risk to public safety had “decreased enough” but that the Meta would add new guardrails to Trump’s future posts if they contributed to “the kind of risk that materialized on Jan. 6,” such as the posts. election delegitimization or QAnon support. The new sanctions include meta-restricting access to Trump’s Facebook feed posts, restricting access to promotional tools, and removing the share button from offensive posts. If Trump continues to violate Facebook’s rules, the company could again suspend him for periods ranging from one month to two years.

It is true that the US is no longer in the process of transitioning between presidents and is not under nationwide lockdowns that have caused political frustration.

But one thing is not Trump has changed. The former president has not abandoned any of his anti-election views. rioters said they inspired their violence January 6. He continues to spread false claims that The 2020 elections were “rigged”. to attack on employees of local election commissions whose job it is to count ballots and promote conspiracy theories like QAnon. The belief of his supporters that the elections were stolen caused democracy expertsand about three out of five Americansto fear that there could be more violence during the 2024 presidential election.

If Trump does start using Facebook again — which seems likely — every time he posts a campaign lie or a veiled threat, or reinforces a dangerous QAnon theory, the company will have to decide if the post violates its rules, and what the consequences will be.

“People will scrutinize every post Trump makes,” said Kathy Harbat, a former director of public policy at Facebook and a Republican politician who now runs her own tech policy consulting firm, Anchor Change. “Life will be hell” for platforms like Facebook if Trump returns, she added.

Mete better buckle up. During the Trump presidency, Facebook faced an employee uprising, a major advertiser boycott, and political backlash from Democratic Party Leaders because of Trump’s posts on his platforms. The last two years since Trump’s ban have been a respite from the need to minimize public discontent with Trump’s posts.

Now Trump has become a problem for Facebook again.

Why Trump might actually return to Facebook

For a while, it looked like Trump would not be returning to mainstream social media even if given the opportunity. He’s had access to Twitter for a month, but he still hasn’t posted anything.

This may be because he has a contractual obligation to post on his company’s own social media app. Trump required by law to be published first on Truth Social before it cross-posts to other social media platforms (although there is an important exception for “political messages”), according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But now Trump, who last month announced his candidacy for president in 2024, is reportedly trying to get out of his exclusive contract with Social Truth, and planning his return to Twitter and Facebook. Last week, Trump’s legal team wrote a letter to Meta asking for a meeting with the company’s management and calling for the removal of the suspension.

While Twitter may be Trump’s platform of choice for gaining media attention and sharing his unfiltered thoughts, Facebook is by far the most powerful social media app for political campaigning. That’s because of the sheer size of Facebook’s active user base – almost 3 billion people – compared to more than 350 million on Twitter and 2 million on Truth Social.

“Every candidate should be where his voters are. When it comes to digital campaigns, Facebook is the largest gathering in the country,” Republican digital campaign strategist Eric Wilson, who heads the Center for Campaign Innovation, told Recode.

Facebook is also Trump’s key fundraising vehicle. During the Facebook lockdown, he was not allowed to advertise or raise funds on the platform.

If and when Trump starts posting again on Facebook and Instagram, get ready to see more of what he shared on Truth Social: From April 28 to October 8, Trump posted 116 posts boosting “QAnon followers and sympathizers” and 239 posts containing ” malicious election-related disinformation,” according to Accountable Tech watchdog group. He also made comments promoting election fraud conspiracy theories who, according to critics, encouraged the harassment of poll workers, such as threats hangings, executions, torture and bombings.

“Trump’s rhetoric only got worse” after he was suspended from Facebook, said Nicole Gill, president of Accountable Tech. “He devoted himself to the ‘big lie’ and election denial.”

Last Thursday Trump wrote on Truth Social, in part“The election was rigged and stolen, an unelected committee of political hackers and thugs refused to debate it, and that’s the way it is.”

According to Facebook’s rules, a post like the one above containing a claim that the 2020 election was rigged would not violate its rules because it’s about a previous election, not the current one. But if Trump posts something like this during the 2024 election, Facebook will face tough challenges.

There are many questions about how Facebook will handle Trump for the second time.

Now that Trump can return to Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s policy on political speech is getting attention again.

Today, Facebook is nuanced when it comes to political speeches. While the company has policies in place that prohibit harmful propaganda such as Covid-19 health misinformation or ads for dangerous groups, the company may release exclusion of “informativeness” allow publication if he decides that it is in the public interest. In 2019 Clegg announced that the company will process the speeches of politicians as informational content “which should generally be seen and heard”, but dropped this policy in 2021, saying that there would be no more content from politicians automatically considered newsworthy — although Facebook can still make exceptions for politicians on a case-by-case basis. The bar for Facebook to actually block a politician’s speech remains high: only if the content can cause real harm that outweighs the public interest in keeping it.

Wilson, a Republican digital strategist, argued that Facebook should be more lenient on political speech.

Once Facebook enforces a policy on speech against one politician, Wilson said, politicians have the opportunity to “work with the referee” and ask Facebook to suspend or limit opposition political speech.

“It’s easier to say, ‘Oh, well, those are the criteria you used to keep Trump off the platform when he was a candidate.’ Then let me give you five examples of how my opponent also crossed that line,” Wilson told Recode.

Other consultants and policy experts Recode spoke with, such as Casey Mattox, an attorney and free speech expert at the conservative libertarian political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, argued that Facebook should hold politicians to the same standard as everyone else. . There should be one set of rules for everyone, and if anything, Facebook should pay. more attention to politicians, as their speech has more influence.

“I think they would be in a better position if [Meta] basically said, “Look, those are the rules, and the president and everyone else is expected to abide by the same rules,” Mattox said.

These consultants and experts agreed on one point, no matter what they see as the right approach: Facebook needs to be more transparent about how it enforces its policies when it comes to high-profile politicians like Trump.

“The decision is important for Meta in the context of adhering to a set of rules that people can look at and consider as neutral rules? [Rules] that depend on core standards that are independent of political orientation?” said David Kaye, a former UN free speech expert and law professor at the University of California, Irvine. – I think that’s the key.

Meta has come under fire from its review board — an independent group of academics, human rights experts and lawyers who advise the company on content decisions and policies — for being more explicit about its rules and policy enforcement. speeches, especially after Trump’s decision. In reply to Meta said he would reveal when he makes exceptions to his rules for newsworthy figures like Trump and developed a “crisis politics protocol” for how he handles speech in times of heightened Democratic violence.

But the Meta still makes decisions behind closed doors. In deciding to reinstate Trump, Facebook reportedly created a dedicated group of policy, communications and other business leaders led by Clegg, the company’s chief political officer, a former British politician. The company also consulted with “external stakeholders” but did not say who they were.

If Facebook is truly transparent about its decisions about Trump, it will be different from Twitter, whose fairly new CEO and owner Elon Musk has had little to say for Trump’s return other than Musk’s belief in free speech and the results of a 24-hour public poll. Musk announced this on his Twitter page.

“Meta might be something like no-Mask here; they can really highlight the fact that freedom of speech on our platform is generally about more than just the right of the speaker to say whatever they want,” Kaye said.

Regardless of how Facebook justifies Trump’s continued presence on its platform, he’s in for a wild ride. While today’s decision may be seen as the end of two years of uncertainty, in many ways it is only the beginning.


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