‘This is Peak Greed’: Activists Blast Meta for Reinstating Trump to Facebook
The reinstatement of right-wing former United States President Donald Trump to Facebook and Instagram was roundly criticized by activists warning that it could drive “democracy to the brink.”
“Meta is moving backwards, returning us to a time when Donald Trump used the company’s powerful tools to spread lies and dangerous rhetoric, and incite violence targeted at disenfranchised communities and his ideological enemies,” said Jessica J. González, head of the media advocacy group Free Press.
González also noted on Twitter that the platforms’ parent company Meta made the move a week after the Washington Post published a draft of a 122-page memo shared between members of the congressional committee investigating the January 6 2021 coup attempt by Trump’s supporters against the U.S. Capitol.
“Last week we learned that the January 6th Select Committee found that Donald Trump’s social media posts helped incite an insurrection. They found that the threat of violence still exists today,” she wrote. “So what does Meta do? Reinstates him. This is peak greed.”
According to the memo, Facebook head of global policy Joel Kaplan intervened to protect Trump’s account on several occasions prior to his finally being banned from that platform in January 2021. In one instance, he advised against making Trump fall under the jurisdiction of fact-checking after losing the presidency, saying:
I think we should not rush to make this public commitment before we have fully thought through the consequences and options. Under our current policies, Trump will likely be in almost immediate [repeat offender] status, and see his distribution massively reduced while he effectively and indefinitely remains the leader of the Republican Party. We may not want to contemplate it, but the reality is he will still be quite a unique user of our platform and applying our existing flawed [third-party factchecking] program to him on day one will cause tremendous difficulties (as, of course, would not applying it).
In announcing Trump’s reinstatement, Meta claimed that he would be subject to what it called a “crisis policy protocol” and other new policies that would allow for his account to be restricted again.
“If he now posts further violating content, that content will be removed, of course, and he could be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” said company spokesperson Nick Clegg.
But CNN correspondent Oliver Darcy reported that future jurisdiction of Trump’s account could be “contentious,” saying:
For instance, a Meta spokesperson told me that Trump will be permitted to attack the results of the 2020 election without facing consequences from the company. However, the spokesperson said, if Trump were to cast doubt on an upcoming election — like, the 2024 presidential race — the social giant will take action. In those cases, Meta might limit the distribution of the violative post or restrict access to advertising tools.
The company’s in-house oversight board released a statement welcoming the use of the “crisis policy protocol” for Trump’s account, while pointing out that it was not involved in that decision. The outside advocacy group The Real Facebook Oversight Board was less charitable in its own response:
This is a calamitously irresponsible decision by Meta that will only serve to spread the big lie and drive hate and disinformation. Meta has given up on their Oversight Board, given in to political pressure and grossly underestimated the danger of allowing someone who has only used escalating language on his own social network. This may drive engagement and profit for Meta, but will also drive Meta’s audience further apart, and democracy closer to the brink.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, also accused Meta of putting money above user safety in a statement on Twitter.
“At a time when LGBTQ people report being bullied and harassed online more than any marginalized group and when misinformation about our lives is leading to anti-LGBTQ legislation, relentless harassment, and physical violence, Meta should prioritize creating safer and truthful environments,” she wrote. “Donald Trump’s longstanding history of using social media platforms to amplify lies and misinformation and incite hate and violence makes his return to Facebook and Instagram dangerous for every single American.
Given Meta’s long history of prioritizing their own corporate profits over public safety, today’s news is not surprising, but it will rightfully be met with condemnation from community leaders and Meta employees alike.”