Should Facebook have reinstated Trump's account?
- Facebook’s Oversight Board announced on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 that President Donald Trump’s account would not be reinstated, however stating it was “inappropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” The ruling leaves open the possibility of reinstatement after six months and reexamination.
- The ban followed the Wednesday, January 6 incited in which Trump supporters rallied on the US Capitol. After chaos ensued, there were four fatalities, 52 arrests, and 14 police officers injured.
- Trump was impeached for the second time after allegedly provoking violence at Capitol Hill, but was acquitted in mid February.
- Mark Zuckerberg made the initial decision on January 6 to ban Trump from Facebook along with removing several posts citing fear they would “provoke further violence.”
- Twitter permanently banned Trump on January 8 “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
- Pew Research Center released a poll in January 27, stating 58% of Americans support social media banning President Trump with 41% in disagreement. More Republicans than Democrats believe it was wrong.
Some of Former President Trump's Facebook highlights include such gems as 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts,' and comparing the coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, to the seasonal flu. The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab recently said, 'there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the largest spreader of specific and important types of misinformation today.' This type of misinformation is incredibly dangerous, especially concerning the pandemic, racial unrest, and election security. Trump has a proven disregard for the truth, and for this reason, Facebook is right not to allow him to use its platform as a megaphone.
It's good for Big Tech to be tough on misinformation. Platforms such as Facebook run the risk of becoming irrelevant information wastelands if the type of misinformation and hate speech propagated by the former president isn't policed. By keeping Trump permanently banned, Facebook is saying to its users that it values quality information over misleading coronavirus information or calling racial justice protestors 'thugs.'
Regulation is coming for social media, making it in Facebook's interest to get ahead of legislators and prove that they can effectively deal with the worst of the worst by banning Trump permanently. Social media CEOs have been brought before Congress to testify several times, demonstrating lawmakers' desire to see more regulation in Silicon Valley. Some of these lawmakers have demonstrated their own tenuous grasp of how the internet works; it makes sense for Facebook and others to take matters into their own hands to show they will not tolerate misinformation and content aimed at disturbing the peace. This starts with banning Donald Trump.
The Facebook oversight board should have reinstated former President Trump's account based on the fact that he was wrongfully banned due to claims that he incited violence at the Capitol back in January. However, this was never proven to be Trump's doing, as he encouraged nothing but peaceful demonstrating. Considering that Facebook prides itself on its goal to prevent the spread of false information, this is a legitimate reason to allow Trump back online.
Facebook has shown its bias in the past, favoring the political Left while censoring many opinions determined to be Right or Right of center. Allowing the former president to utilize his account again would have been a notable act of good faith from the platform in demonstrating its intent to be a neutral party that does not discriminate against political opinions in which it does not necessarily align. Of course, it can be rightfully argued that Facebook is a private entity and therefore has the right to ban anyone or anything from its platform that it chooses. However, since Facebook has monopolized the social media industry, implementing bans on controversial accounts limits the exchange of ideas between opposing opinions, which Facebook is in a position to encourage.
This area of debate has become widely politicized, with Republicans and Democrats working together to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that addresses users' content. Many have expressed that it is increasingly important to hold social media giants accountable for the authority they possess, with a Facebook vice president even agreeing that it is questionable for sites like it to 'have the power to ban elected leaders.'