Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
EDITOR'S UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, the Facebook oversight board reaffirmed the social media behemoth's suspension of former President Donald J. Trump, but criticized the "indeterminate suspension without clear standards." The board instructed the company to review the decision within six months while establishing a "proportionate response" to Trump's violations.
Former President Donald Trump has been suspended from Facebook for 118 days — potentially keeping hundreds of misinformative or harmful posts off the platform. Without access to Facebook, Trump has turned to alternate forms of communication to deliver more of his same lies about the election that helped ignite an armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
But on Wednesday morning, the Facebook Oversight Board will announce its decision on reinstating his account. If the board allows Trump back on the platform, it will likely embolden the former president and give him an even bigger platform to spread these harmful lies.
Trump — who is banned on Twitter as well — has not been silent without his social media accounts, nor has he been remorseful. On Monday morning, Trump published a press release via his Save America PAC that clearly telegraphed the false, divisive, and dangerous rhetoric he would likely amplify and share on Facebook if the board reinstates his account.
The press release reads: "The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!" — a claim Trump reiterated last month on Newsmax, where he called the election "rigged" and "stolen." Two weeks prior, he was on Fox News claiming the "Supreme Court and our courts didn't have the courage to overturn elections that should have been overturned." If his post-election media appearances and statements are any indication, Trump will likely use Facebook to spread the same false messaging about the election if he is allowed back on the platform.
Media Matters previously reported that Trump pushed election misinformation in 363 posts, or six percent of his total posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021. Based on his previous habits, we estimate that the full duration of his suspension (119 days by tomorrow's decision) kept approximately 463 posts with misinformation or extreme rhetoric off the platform, including roughly 116 posts that would likely contain election misinformation.
Throughout his presidency, Trump used social media to spread dangerous, hateful lies, and social media companies did nothing to stop it. This culminated in the events of January 6, when Trump used his Facebook page to encourage the Capitol rioters, who were spurred on by his months-long barrage of false election fraud claims. Now, Trump's press releases and media interviews could not be any clearer: He is doubling down on the lie that the election was stolen.
If the Facebook Oversight Board allows Trump back on the platform, it will be enabling him to continue the exact same behaviors that got him suspended in the first place -- spreading lies and encouraging violence.
Research contributions from Kayla Gogarty
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