Is Meta's decision to bring back Trump dangerous or overdue?

Donald Trump's Facebook page.
Donald Trump's Facebook page. Illustrated | Gettyimages

Meta is reinstating former President Donald Trump's accounts on Facebook and Instagram after a two-year ban. The social media company suspended Trump's access after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack by a mob of his supporters trying to reverse his election loss. Meta had said the suspension was necessary to avoid inciting more violence. Nick Clegg, Meta's president of global affairs, said the company had decided to reinstate Trump's account because the public has a right to hear what politicians have to say, "the good, the bad and the ugly." Meta said if Trump violates its rules again, he could face another suspension of one month to two years.

Trump responded to the news with a post on his own social media platform, Truth Social, slamming the decision to ban him in the first place. "FACEBOOK, which has lost Billions of Dollars in value since 'deplatforming' your favorite President, me, has just announced that they are reinstating my account," he wrote. "Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!" Trump critics argued that the former president is still pushing the "Big Lie" — that the 2020 election was stolen from him — so he continues to pose a threat to democracy. Is Meta's decision dangerous or overdue? And what could it mean for the 2024 election?

Letting Trump back on Facebook is reckless

Facebook suspended Trump for spreading "dangerous lies about the 2020 election," says Ja'han Jones in MSNBC's The ReidOut Blog, and nothing has changed. He's had two years to change his "dangerous behavior" and has "shown no signs" of doing so. Instead, he has merely moved his disinformation machine over to his own social media platform, where he "can fire off the same lies and baseless conspiracy theories at will."

Facebook insists it will install "new guardrails" to keep Trump from violating its rules on provoking violence. "But, to be frank, Facebook hasn't inspired much confidence in its desire to improve its most dangerous aspects" since it sent Trump packing. Now it's inviting "a power-hungry firehose of violent rhetoric back" with no conceivable justification, other than that Trump "generated a lot of traffic for the company," and it could use the boost because it's "showing some financial instability."

The move is long overdue

It's about time Facebook lifted its ban, which it never should have been imposed "in the first place," says Bob Hoge at RedState. The company is backpedaling now, saying: "The public should be able to hear what politicians are saying so they can make informed choices." Pointing that out now only shows how "hypocritical" Facebook has been by muzzling Trump while letting his political rivals say whatever they want.

Reinstating Trump now could have "huge implications for his 2024 presidential campaign," Hoge adds. Trump has nearly 88 million followers on Twitter (which reinstated him last year), "and had roughly 35.4 million on Facebook and another 24.6 on Instagram before his bans." He has promised to communicate first and foremost on Truth Social, but he only has 5 million fans there, so he probably "won't be able to resist the temptation to return to all three platforms in the future — he simply has too much fun with social media to let the opportunity pass by."

It's a risky gamble for Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has hit a rough patch, financially, and spending by Trump's campaign could be a welcome tonic, says Parmy Olson in Bloomberg. His "2016 campaign spent 80 percent of its digital budget on Facebook," and his 2024 campaign has been itching for him to go live again. But for Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg, the road ahead is "complicated." If Trump goes back to using Facebook to spread lies and "QAnon conspiracy theories," Facebook will come "under enormous pressure to switch up recommendation algorithms that were steering people toward extremist groups and to dampen the spread of misinformation."

"Meta had better buckle up," says Shirin Ghaffary in Vox. Trump hasn't "recanted any of his election-denying views that rioters said inspired their violence on Jan. 6," and "some three in five Americans" fear the 2024 election season will prove even more violent. If the former president does return to Facebook, "every time he posts an election lie or veiled threat," Facebook "will have to decide if that post violates its rules, and what the consequences will be."

Neither Trump nor Facebook matter as much as they used to

This whole ordeal feels "oddly anticlimactic," says Will Oremus in The Washington Post. For one thing, Trump might pass on the opportunity to return and stick with Truth Social. More importantly, "neither he nor the platforms themselves are the titanic forces in American culture and politics that they were when he left." Sure, there's a chance a "triumphant return" to Facebook could propel him to "another conspiracy-theory-fueled bid for the presidency." But for now this just seems like "a sheepish olive branch extended from a diminished institution to a diminished politician, each struggling to maintain its relevance."

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