Change the Terms Coalition Calls on Mark Zuckerberg to Heed the Jan. 6 Committee's Warnings and Permanently Ban Donald Trump
WASHINGTON — On Friday, a coalition of more than five-dozen civil-rights, human-rights, tech-policy and consumer-protection organizations urged Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to heed the dire warnings in a draft report from the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack and permanently ban former President Donald Trump from Facebook.
The Jan. 6 Committee’s draft report on social media was not included in the 845-page final report it released at the end of the 117th Congress. The full contents of the social-media report were published earlier this week after a Washington Post investigation. It finds that President Trump’s supporters used Facebook to closely track “his claims about a stolen election and subsequently his calls to descend on D.C. to protest the Joint Session of Congress on January 6th, 2021.” The report also found that Facebook’s “delayed response to the rise of far-right extremism—and President Trump’s incitement of his supporters—helped to facilitate the attack on January 6th.”
“President Trump repeatedly violated Meta’s rules,” the Change the Terms coalition writes in its letter to Zuckerberg. “He used Facebook to spread hate and racism against people of color, used your advertising platform to target xenophobic campaign ads to potential voters, repeatedly spread lies about the integrity of our electoral process to undermine our democracy, and used your platform to incite a violent insurrection ... His return would surely embolden a base of existing supporters, who believe that such violence is justified if it means returning Trump to power.”
Read the full letter here.
Meta suspended Trump on Jan. 7, 2021, after he posted incendiary comments about his supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Trump’s posts “incited violent insurrection against a democratically elected government” and noted that the company believed there was a “serious risk of ongoing violence.”
Meta initially suspended Trump’s accounts for 24 hours, but later extended the suspension indefinitely and then changed it to a two-year period, which ended on Jan. 7, 2023. On Tuesday, the former president formally petitioned Meta to restore his Facebook account.
The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism released a report in 2021 showing that by effectively making a special exception for prominent people like Trump, Facebook created a cascade of ever-changing policies that allow politicians across the world to harm billions of people with polarizing messages that undermine democracies.
“We cannot return to a time when Donald Trump used Meta’s powerful tools to spread lies and extreme rhetoric, and incite violence targeted at disenfranchised communities and his ideological enemies,” said Jessica J. González, co-CEO of Free Press and o-chair of Change the Terms. “Rather than restore Trump, Meta must make his suspension permanent and stop exempting other world leaders and prominent politicians who inflame hate, incite violence and spread anti-democratic lies. If Zuckerberg decides to ignore the Select Committee’s warnings and return Trump to Facebook, he must also accept responsibility for the explosion of hate and disinformation that will undoubtedly follow.”
“Facebook is playing with fire,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and co-chair of Change the Terms. “They know exactly what will happen if they let Donald Trump back on the platform because we’ve seen it all before. From spreading hate and racism to inciting violence to spewing lies meant to undermine democracies, Trump’s return to the platform would be disastrous and the harms would be felt worldwide, as we just saw in Brazil. The world is watching. Facebook has the chance to put people and democracies before profit. Let’s hope it makes the right decision.”
Since its founding in 2018, the Change the Terms coalition has mapped a better path forward for Meta and other social-media giants. The coalition has created model policies it urges social-media platforms to adopt to reduce hate and disinformation online and prevent actual violence in the real world. These include policies to prevent all Meta users — regardless of their prominence — from using the company's services to engage in or facilitate hateful activities.
Change the Terms has repeatedly called on Meta to provide a well-resourced enforcement mechanism that combines technological solutions with staff responsible for ensuring that toxic hate and disinformation are not present in any language and/or country where the company does business.