Now that Trump can use his Twitter account again after it was suspended in the wake of the 2016 riot in the U.S. Capitol, his campaign is formally petitioning Facebook’s parent company to unblock his account there as well.
According to a copy of the letter reviewed by NBC News, Trump’s campaign wrote to Meta on Tuesday, saying, “We believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse.”
Even though Trump associates speculated that the Trump campaign would threaten legal action, nothing came of it. Instead, it spoke up for the importance of free speech and asked Meta for a “meeting to talk about President Trump’s quick return to the platform.”
A spokesperson for Meta said, “we will announce a decision in the coming weeks in line with the process we laid out,” but declined to comment further on Trump.
A day after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and interfered with Congress as it counted electoral votes to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory, the social media giants banned him for inciting violence. Many of his supporters have admitted in federal court that they were whipped up by Trump’s lies of a stolen election.
After a lot of thought, Facebook decided to put a limited ban on Trump into place on January 7. This ban will be looked at again in two years.
The previous leadership of Twitter wanted to ban Trump forever, but on November 19, Trump’s account was brought back by the new owner, Elon Musk. Musk then went public and criticized the previous leadership for their decision.
But Trump still hasn’t sent out a tweet.
It’s likely that Trump will resume using Twitter. It’s just a matter of how and when,” a Republican source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity about Trump’s discussions of a possible return to the podium. He has been discussing it for weeks, but since Trump speaks for Trump, it is anyone’s guess as to what he will do, say, or when it will happen.
Another person close to Trump who did not want to be named spoke publicly about conversations with him and said that the president had asked for advice for weeks about returning to Twitter and that his campaign advisers had also discussed potential wording for his first tweet.
Some of Trump’s advisors have expressed concern that having started his own social media platform in the form of Truth Social, Trump will be restricted in his ability to post on other sites. Truth Social hasn’t said anything about the rumors of restrictions, and a Trump campaign spokesman said that the candidate will be able to use Twitter normally again.
On the condition of anonymity, a second Trump advisor who has spoken with the candidate about Facebook and shared the gist of their conversation with NBC News stated that the campaign expects Facebook to lift the ban and reinstate Trump after two years, but that the campaign is willing to work with the Republican-controlled House to lobby on his behalf and put pressure on Meta. The advisor said that lawmakers would look into Section 230 of the federal law, which has to do with social media companies.
The adviser pointed out that Democrats in the House, including California’s Adam Schiff, told Facebook last month to keep Trump off the platform. “If Facebook wants to have this fight, fine, but the House is leverage,” the adviser said.
In a letter to Meta, Schiff wrote, “We have every reason to believe he would bring similar conspiratorial rhetoric back to Facebook, if given the chance,” referencing Trump’s continued posting of “harmful election content” on Truth Social that is likely in violation of Facebook’s policies.
It is also indicative of the limitations of Truth Social that Trump intends to increase his social media presence. Contrast that with Trump’s nearly 88 million Twitter followers and 34 million Facebook likes.
The 2016 election was a resounding victory for Donald Trump, who was able to outspend his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in large part because of the role Facebook played in his campaign’s use of computer programming to tailor ads to viewers’ data (known as microtargeting). Bloomberg News cites an internal Facebook report that claims Trump ran 5.9 million variants of ads while Clinton only ran 66,000.
But Facebook later changed its rules to limit high-volume advertising, which caused Trump’s campaign to protest. The changes prevented the Trump organization from using Facebook in the same way it did in 2016, according to an unnamed worker for Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Even though many Republicans began to oppose Trump’s use of Twitter, the platform is widely credited with helping him rise to political prominence.
In its report on the Capitol riot released on January 6th, the House committee made repeated reference to Trump’s use of Twitter to rally supporters to Washington, D.C. by proclaiming, “Be there, it will be wild!” The report says that after his supporters took over the Capitol, Trump at first didn’t use Twitter to tell them to leave. Instead, he criticized Vice President Mike Pence for not helping to overturn the election, which made the crowd even angrier.
Trump was permanently banned from Twitter the following day. It was on that same day that Facebook implemented its own ban.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg condemned Trump’s “decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world,” writing that “the shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.”
Because “we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence,” Zuckerberg wrote, “we removed these statements yesterday.”
Even though Trump has broken Facebook’s rules many times over the years, Zuckerberg said that Meta has always been kind to him by removing his posts or marking them as violations instead of banning him because “the public has a right to the widest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech.”
But, he said, “the current situation is fundamentally different because our platform is being used to stir up violence against a democratically elected government.”
Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs, said in a statement released on May 5, 2021, that Facebook had sent the ban to its independent Oversight Board, which upheld the ban but criticized the company for the “open-ended nature” of the suspension. Clegg made the two-year temporary ban public on June 4.
At the end of that time, “we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” Clegg wrote. We’ll look at things like violence rates, freedom of assembly laws, and other external indicators of social unrest. If we find that the risk to public safety has not diminished, we will extend the ban for a new period of time and keep reassessing until the danger has passed.
Despite the passage of time, the Trump campaign still included a quote from Clegg from October in which he warned that “any private company… should tread with great thoughtfulness when seeking to, basically, silence political voices.”
In a letter to Clegg, Zuckerberg, and Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s VP of global public policy, the Trump campaign said that they agreed. Trump’s campaign said that a continued ban would be “basically,” in Clegg’s words, “a deliberate effort by a private company to silence Mr. Trump’s political voice.” To add insult to injury, “every day that President Trump’s political voice stays silent furthers an inappropriate interference in the American political and election process,” the campaign said.