Will Meta allow Trump back on Facebook despite his QAnon rhetoric on Truth Social?
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Donald Trump’s social media megaphone may have gotten smaller but, according to a new report, his extremist rhetoric has arguably gotten louder than ever.
Facing bans from both Twitter and Facebook, the former president has resorted to posting solely on Truth Social, his own personal conservative social media platform. And in January 2023, Meta will decide whether or not the former president should be allowed to post again on Facebook, the world’s largest social network. A recent analysis by Media Matters, a non-profit progressive organization that tracks right-wing extremism, could factor into that decision.
“If [Trump] was doing these things on Facebook, he would be sanctioned,” said Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters For America.
The behavior Carusone is referring to is detailed in the media watchdog’s latest report on Trump’s activity on Truth Social. In just a few months, social media giant Meta says it will decide whether to end Trump’s suspension and the company has specifically said it would look at Trump’s activity elsewhere — such as on Truth Social — when determining whether letting him back onto Facebook would continue to spread harm.
In an email response, a Meta spokesperson referred Mashable to Facebook’s original statement from June 2021 when it decided Trump would be suspended for a two-year period and would only be reinstated if “conditions permit.”
Using data based on Trump’s own Facebook policy-breaking rhetoric, Media Matters makes the case in its report that he should not be allowed back on the platform.
Trump’s Truth Social posts relating to QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory, are perhaps the former president’s most egregious. Facebook explicitly banned QAnon from its platform in 2020. QAnon followers believe that Donald Trump is still the President of the United States and that he is secretly waging a war against a global cabal of child trafficking, Satanic cannibals made up of Trump’s political enemies such as the Democratic Party and Hollywood elites. QAnon rhetoric has consistently become more extreme since Trump’s 2020 election loss and its beliefs have resulted in fatal consequences.
“When Trump was pushing QAnon on Facebook, it was incidental,” said Carusone. “In 2020, he sort of dabbled in it. It was a couple of degrees removed from QAnon. It was QAnon-adjacent. Now he’s fully embraced it.”
It isn’t only Media Matters saying this. Other extremism researchers, such as Jared Holt of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, have also noticed a recent embrace of QAnon from the former president. And there’s no denying the data either. Trump has increasingly posted or shared content from influencers or followers within the QAnon community on Truth Social. According to Media Matters’ report, Trump has “amplified at least 61 QAnon accounts more than 130 times” including a flurry of 22 QAnon posts on just two consecutive days in September.
Trump has only been active on Truth Social since May.
The report also found that Trump has repeatedly continued to spread falsehoods about the 2020 Presidential election. Media Matters says that Trump has mentioned the “rigged” election at least least 58 times on Truth Social.
“The Election was Rigged and Stolen,” wrote Trump in one post.
Carusone pointed to Trump’s recent post about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a member of his own party — as an example of Trump’s increasingly violent rhetoric.
“He has a DEATH WISH,” posted Trump on Truth Social, accusing McConnell of working with Democrats. Carusone believes these posts should factor into Meta’s decision, based on the company’s own words.
“They’re saying, ‘Look, if there’s a possibility that this stuff…could lead to something in the real world, that’s what we’re going to factor into our analysis as to whether or not the threat has receded,'” he said. “And nobody thinks the threat has receded.”
Trump has been suspended on Facebook since 2021 as a result of his social media posts regarding the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, where pro-Trump supporters attempted to force the overturn of the 2020 presidential election results.
In May 2021, Meta’s independent Oversight Board upheld Trump’s suspension but told the company that it must either ban him outright or provide a timeframe for the suspension. Meta decided to leave open the possibility that Trump could be back on the platform as soon as January 2023.
In a previous Media Matters report from Feb. 2021, right after Trump was suspended from Facebook, the organization found that “roughly a quarter” of Trump’s posts from 2020 to 2021 broke various platform policies regarding misinformation about COVID-19 and the election, or “extreme rhetoric” targeting his political enemies.
If Meta does decide to reinstate Trump’s account early next year, allowing the former president and his team to once again post to his 34 million Facebook followers, Carusone plans to escalate the issue with Meta directly.
“If they do restore his account, we’re going to appeal to the Oversight Board because they made it so clear in their own enforcement policy,” he said. “I don’t see any other way. If they don’t look at the totality of circumstances, then the only recourse at that point is to go right back to the Board and say, ‘Look, they set this policy and they didn’t even apply it.'”
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