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January 26, 2023

Flagging Facebook to Reinstate Trump’s Account

Allowing the former president back on the platform is about two things: making money and helping Democrats.

Last November, Facebook’s parent company Meta laid off 11,000 workers (13% of its workforce), one of many Big Tech firms cutting employees in recent months. Yesterday, Meta announced that former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be restored. Yes, those two things are tied together.

“Follow the money” is a truism for most things involving Washington, DC, and that’s no different here, even when it involves Silicon Valley on the other side of the continent. There’s an awful lot of money to be made when individuals like Trump bring their devoted followers — whether for or against — to the platform.

Facebook got some cover for its move after new Twitter CEO Elon Musk lifted that platform’s ban on Trump’s account last fall, just after Trump announced his third presidential bid. The former president, however, declined to rejoin Twitter — at least for now — preferring to build his own competing company, Truth Social.

Given that his Facebook page had less than half as many followers (34 million) as he had on Twitter (87 million), and he used it primarily to repost material from Twitter, we expect his response will be the same. He would, after all, like to have more than his current five million followers on Truth Social.

The obvious question is whether Trump will be able to resist the reach and attention he’d gain by returning to the two biggest social media platforms. He more than any other national political figure since Ronald Reagan mastered the art of speaking over the media directly to the people. That served him extremely well.

Except when it didn’t. Too many times, he became his own worst enemy. He’d immediately follow a policy triumph by engaging in some petty squabble on Twitter, often with his own side, undermining his own success in that moment.

That hints at a reason beyond money for Meta’s move. Democrats relish the opportunity to run against the Bad Orange Man again, and they calculate — rightly or wrongly — that returning his social media megaphone will help them.

There’s also the question of Trump’s own brand. What better way to build Truth Social than to stay away from the competition? Doing so would necessitate that his supporters and media critics alike get on Truth Social so as to know what he’s saying.

In a way, that’s exactly the publicly stated argument made by Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs: “The public should be able to hear what politicians are saying so they can make informed choices.”

Oh the irony! Facebook and Twitter alike have engaged in gross censorship for years, redlining free speech rights by silencing those who say Unapproved Things™ and thus depriving the public of making informed choices. How, for example, does Meta think the voting public would have chosen if they’d known about Joe Biden’s corruption revealed by Hunter Biden’s laptop?

So spare us the high-minded sanctimony.

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reports this enlightening tidbit: “Clegg said that the company had concluded the risk to public safety that warranted Mr. Trump’s original suspension from the platforms had receded adequately, so a continued ban on his accounts wasn’t justifiable. But, he said, Meta would closely watch the former president’s accounts.”

Yes, they’ll be watching him, and Clegg warned that Trump will have “new guardrails” and “faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses.” How enticing.

The “risk to public safety” was, of course, the January 6 Capitol riot. Trump certainly should have been quicker to denounce the violence, but leftist caterwauling about the “threat to democracy” posed by a couple hundred people led by a half-naked guy in a horn hat was a sick joke. As was the second impeachment of a president on his way out of office for the supposed sin of “inciting an insurrection.”

That disgraceful episode is just one of the myriad ways Facebook has degraded the public discourse. While we’d be glad to see Big Tech leaders truly mend their ways and come to respect free speech again as platforms and not publishers, Meta’s warnings clearly signal that isn’t what’s happening here with Trump’s accounts. This is nothing more than chasing money and helping Democrats, same as it always was.

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