Nine minutes after Meta announced that it will allow Donald Trump back on its platforms, the disgraced ex-president was on his own Truth Social app posting about supposed election fraud in the 2020 election.
It’s nothing unusual for Trump. A research report published earlier this month by the watchdog group Accountable Tech found that Trump had written more than 200 posts containing “harmful election-related disinformation” since he was banished from Meta’s platforms.
But now, once again, Trump is Meta’s problem. The social media giant announced on Wednesday, unsurprisingly, that Trump will be permitted back on Facebook and Instagram, setting the stage for some thorny content moderation calls in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
And those content moderation calls are likely to be contentious.
For instance, a Meta spokesperson said Trump will be permitted to attack the results of the 2020 election without facing consequences from the company. However, the spokesperson said, if Trump were to cast doubt on an upcoming election — like, the 2024 presidential race — the social giant will take action. In those cases, Meta might limit the distribution of the violative post or restrict access to advertising tools.
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But attacks on the 2020 election will only serve to cast doubt on the integrity of future elections. And Meta will undoubtedly face scrutiny for its high-stakes decisions on the issue as Trump inevitably approaches the line.
But this is only one aspect of the murky content moderation waters that Meta will find itself in. As Accountable Tech noted in its report, Trump has posted a number of things in recent years on Truth Social that would seemingly violate the company’s community standards. Accountable Tech found that Trump had attacked racial minorities (remember when he posted that racist attack last year on Elaine Chao?) and amplified the deranged QAnon conspiracy theory to his followers more than 100 times.
And then there will surely be reprehensible, antidemocratic comments that Trump will make on Facebook that perhaps don’t outright violate the company rules, despite how ugly they may be, but which ignite outrage and throw Meta into the spotlight. For example, last week, Trump raged on Truth Social that he believed the reporters, and perhaps editors, of Politico’s scoop on the leaked Roe v. Wade decision should be jailed until they disclose their source(s).
Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, previewed how the company will respond to those sorts of nasty posts when he — and notably not Mark Zuckerberg — announced the return of Trump. Clegg argued that “the fact is people will always say all kinds of things on the internet.”
“We default to letting people speak, even when what they have to say is distasteful or factually wrong,” Clegg added. “Democracy is messy and people should be able to make their voices heard. We believe it is both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however distasteful or inaccurate, is part of the rough and tumble of life in a free society.”