The action couldn’t have been more overdue. For years Trump had used the platform to spread hate and disinformation — and Facebook refused to take a stand.
Last year Free Press and allies including ADL, Color Of Change and the NAACP launched the Stop Hate for Profit advertising boycott in protest of Facebook’s failure to protect its users and enforce its policies. During our meeting with top company executives, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that he’d made the final call in the decision to leave up Trump’s racist “looting and shooting” post that condemned last summer’s racial-justice protests — even though it violated Facebook rules against glorifying violence.
This was not Trump’s first offense. Before the El Paso shooter took 23 lives in 2019, Trump’s campaign ran more than 2,000 political ads that ran in heavy rotation in Texas. The ads used the word “invasion” to describe immigrants, racist sentiments that were reflected in the shooter’s hateful manifesto.
Trump’s constant violations of Facebook’s policies only intensified over time. He flooded the platform with toxic disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, downplaying its severity and peddling fake miracle cures. He constantly spread lies alleging election fraud, setting the stage for the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6.
A recent Media Matters for America analysis found that in 2020, more than 6,000 of Trump’s posts — roughly 1 out of 4 — contained extremist rhetoric or misinformation about the coronavirus or the election. Those posts were liked and shared over 927 million times.
We are all safer when Trump doesn’t have a social-media megaphone. Zignal Labs found that in the week after Trump was deplatformed, disinformation about fraud in the election dropped by 73 percent over social media.
After President Biden’s inauguration, Facebook punted the decision about whether to reinstate Trump’s account to its Oversight Board, an ostensibly independent entity. We wrote a comment to the Oversight Board emphasizing that it must take into account Trump’s long history of violating Facebook’s policies. The board must act in the public interest and uphold Trump’s suspension — and Facebook must honor that decision.
While upholding Trump’s suspension won’t repair the rot at the core of Facebook’s business model, it will help reduce the proliferation of lies and violent hate speech across its global platforms.