Meta’s Rationale for Letting Trump Back on Facebook Couldn’t Be More Dumb

Meta’s Rationale for Letting Trump Back on Facebook Couldn’t Be More Dumb

Before Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November, he pulled off a ploy more common on reality TV than online content moderation, and gave his fans the power to put Trump back on one of the internet’s most popular islands to choose. While the poll was oddly unscientific, it still allowed Musk to sell the move as Democratic in a very simple way.

But Meta, a much more self-absorbed institution than Musk-run Twitter, somehow had an even more ridiculous rationale for reinstating Trump, who was suspended from Facebook and Instagram shortly after the Capitol riot.

In a 1,158-word blog post Wednesday that opened with thoughts on “open debate and the free flow of ideas,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of global affairs, painted the suspension as a temporary punishment for someone who no longer poses the same threat to society. Consider the fine print of Trump’s return, which is a set of toothless but absurdly specific probation rules: According to CNN, he’s allowed to spread false claims about the 2020 election without consequences, but faces light penalties if he uses meta-platforms to cast doubt on the upcoming election including the 2024 presidential campaign.

“We may limit the distribution of such posts and, in repeated instances, temporarily restrict access to our promotional tools,” Clegg wrote, referring to posts that do not violate Meta’s Community Standards but still contribute to the “risk identified on May 6.” It’s worth noting that Clegg’s comments appear to contradict previous crackdowns on QAnon content. (“Starting today, we will be removing Facebook pages, groups, and Instagram accounts to represent QAnon,” the company said in October 2020, trying to prove it was fighting the hordes of QAnon posters radicalized on Facebook.) That seems also unlikely Trump, whose accounts will be reactivated in the coming weeks, will be willing or able to meet these probation conditions; After launching Truth Social in 2021, he used the platform to repeatedly cast doubt on midterm race results and shared dozens of QAnon-enabling posts.

Notwithstanding that recent history, Clegg stated that “the risk” — or potential for violence posed by Trump’s Facebook account — “has receded sufficiently” and “therefore we should adhere to the two-year timeline that we have set.” He also warned that Trump, a potential “repeat offender,” faces increased penalties for violating the community standards that all meta users are said to be bound by, noting that such a violation could result in a suspension “for between a month and two years’ would entail. depending on the seriousness of the violation.”

Needless to say, given the demographic overlap between his supporter base and Facebook’s most active domestic users, Trump’s reinstatement could prove extremely beneficial to his presidential ambitions. Not to mention the fact that Facebook — not Twitter — is the platform that major campaigns like Trump’s rely on for fundraising and advertising, which are undeniably key to any presidential bid.

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