Why Donald Trump’s return to Facebook could usher in a rocky new era for online discourse
It’s been two years since Donald Trump was banned from Meta, but now he’s back. The company’s reason for the former president’s return to Facebook and Instagram — that the threat has decreased — seems to ignore that Trump has not changed in the two years since the ban, only his reach has decreased.
Last week, Meta Global Affairs President Nick Clegg announced that Trump will soon be able to post on Instagram and Facebook. The company said “the risk has decreased enough in the two years since the Capitol riots of January 6, 2021” to allow the ban to be lifted.
What you may not have known – except through media reports – was Trump’s response. This is because the former American President posted it on Truth Social, his own social media network, which he withdrew after being banned by others. And it is convenient for web users behind a wall because the company does not accept new registrations. On that platform, Trump is said to have fewer than 5 million followers, compared to 34 million and nearly 88 million on Facebook and Twitter, respectively.
Meta’s ban meant that Trump would have no place on his platforms during the US mid-term elections in 2022, but would anything have been different if Trump had been given a larger audience? As Dan Milmo detailed, in the weeks following the midterms, nearly half of the posts on Trump’s Truth Social account became allegations of voter fraud or expanded QAnon accounts or content. But you wouldn’t know if you weren’t on this platform or read a news report like this one about it.
If he gets a bigger audience, Trump will start his own again main character A role in online discourse (a role that Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, has boldly taken on in recent months)? Or has his influence waned? That’s the risk Meta takes.
When Musk reversed Trump’s ban on Twitter in November after winning a handful of user polls, it was easy to read the former president’s snub as a dig at the tech CEO. But it seems increasingly likely that the meta-decision about his reinstatement played a large part in Trump’s mind. Earlier this month, NBC reported that Trump advisers had sent a letter to Meta asking for the ban to be lifted, saying it had “dramatically distorted and inhibited public discourse.” If Trump had returned to Twitter and started reposting what he posted on Truth Social, there would have been more pressure on Meta to maintain the ban (apart from the agreement Trump has with his own social media company to maintain the their exclusive locations). on Social Truth for several hours).
That Twitter unbanned and Trump didn’t tweet anything didn’t give enough coverage to Meta.
Trump has far fewer followers on his Truth Social app than he ever did on Facebook. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
There is also the possible financial reasoning. Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, said that Facebook is a “dying platform” and that Trump’s restoration is about maintaining relevance and income.
For months, Trump has been posting on Truth Social how badly the Meta is doing financially, in part trying to justify not being on Facebook anymore. When it lost more than $80 billion in market value and laid off thousands of workers last year as the company sought to shore up a declining user base and lost revenue after Apple made changes to -privacy in its software (£).
But what about the “guard rails”?
Meta’s justification for restoring Trump’s account is that there are new “guardrails” that could see him banned again for anywhere from a month to two years for the most egregious policy violations. But this will probably only apply to the most serious violations – such as the glorification of violent criminals. Clegg indicated that if Trump posts content related to QAnon, for example, his reach will be limited to those posts.
The ban itself was a pretty sufficient reach limiter, but we’ll have to see what happens when Trump starts publishing again. The unreleased Jan. 6 draft of the committee’s staff report, reported by The Washington Post last week, was quite revealing about meta and social media companies in a way general. He said that under their previous leadership, both Facebook and Twitter were sensitive to claims that conservative political speech was being suppressed. “Fear of reprisals and allegations of censorship by the political right have compromised policy, process and decision-making. This was especially true for Facebook,” the document said.
“In one case, top management personally intervened to prevent right-wing publishers from taking down their content after receiving too many strikes from independent fact-checkers.
“After the election, they debated whether to change their fact-checking policy on former world leaders to accommodate President Trump.”
These “guardrails” don’t look particularly reassuring, do they?
Is AI Really Coming to Your Job?
The OpenAI chatbot. Photo: Ascannio/Alamy
Layoffs continue to hit the media and companies are trying to cut costs. So it was disheartening, especially for new journalists, to learn that BuzzFeed plans to use AI like ChatGPT “to create content instead of authors.”
(Full disclosure: I worked at BuzzFeed News before joining the Guardian in 2019, but it’s been long enough that I’m not familiar with his thoughts on AI.)
But maybe it’s a little early to despair. Anyone who’s used free AI to produce text will know it’s good but not great, so concerns that BuzzFeed might dip its toes into those waters seem overblown — at least for now.
In an interview with Semafor, BuzzFeed Tech reporter Katie Notopoulos explained that the tools are not intended to replace the quiz-making work that authors are doing now, but rather to create new quizzes that are different from what is already there. “On the one hand,” she said, “I want to try to explain that this is not a bad plan to replace me with AI. But on the other hand… maybe let Wall Street believe for a while.”
That seems to be AI now: not a replacement for a professional, just a tool.
The wider TechScape
How cute are the childhood videos? Photo: Dmitrii Melnikov/Alamy