On MSNBC, Angelo Carusone explains Facebook's cowardice in failing to appropriately penalize Donald Trump

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Citation From the June 5, 2021, edition of MSNBC's Yasmin Vossoughian Reports

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN (HOST): Facebook has extended former President Donald Trump's suspension for at least another two years, denying Trump his online megaphone for the 2022 midterm elections but leaving open the possibility for his return in January of 2023 before the next presidential election. Facebook announced that once the ban is up, experts will, quote, “assess whether the risk to public safety has receded" and make a decision. The social network barred Trump earlier this year after he made comments on social media, rallying his supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6. The former president was quick to slam the move, of course, calling the decision an insult to those who voted for him. 

Joining me now is Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters. Angelo, thanks for joining us on this, really appreciate it. I want to read your tweet to the reaction of Facebook's ban, and in it, you write this: “Facebook played a game since day after Capitol attack. Other platforms banned Trump permanently, but Facebook made it temporary. Then they appealed their own suspension to the board. All their comms say Trump will eventually be reinstated, but somehow that is getting muddied." Can you expand on this? 

ANGELO CARUSONE (PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA): Yeah, so, I mean, one of the things that gets lost in all of this is that the whole reason that we are having the conversation is because after Facebook initially suspended Trump, they did something that the other platforms didn't do, is that they made it temporary. And then in the eleventh hour, right before the deadline for appealing the decision closed, they filed an appeal of their own decision and kicked it to the Oversight Board, which then came back to them and said that you have to make a call here. So they have been refusing to make it a permanent suspension and the part that I think is critical here is if you look at all of their communications around this announcement of a two-year suspension, they all say the word that he will -- that the suspension will eventually be lifted. So this idea that they're going to reevaluate it in two years, I think, is a bit of a distraction. The, you know -- the word on the street and their own writing basically makes it clear that they plan for him to come back in two years. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: This idea of kicking it to the board, do you think that it was an effort in a way for, kind of, Facebook brass, Mark Zuckerberg, not to have to even make a decision? 

CARUSONE: I think that's exactly right. I think a big part of what the board is designed to do is to, sort of, do some of the dirty work for the platform, right? That -- they get to kick all these hard decisions off to this -- what they say, is a third party so that they don't have to then feel like they're on the hook for it from a public relations perspective. And I think they're hope, honestly, was that the board was going to reinstate Donald Trump on free speech grounds. That's been -- that's been the entire arc of all this, because if you go back in time, Donald Trump violated Facebook's terms of service over 1,400 times in 2020 alone. And that's only one year. What does somebody need to do in order to have any accountability, you know, from the platform. And I think they've really tried to avoid doing the one thing that, say, Twitter and others have done, which is to just say it already -- that he is not going to be back. There's actually a consequence for how he's misused and abused the platform. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: What do you make about this argument of reinstating the former president on the grounds of free speech? 

CARUSONE: Look, I'm sensitive to this. And I think that we do need to figure out where the right line is. I do. I think that we just haven't calibrated it enough and it's always going to come up on these cases. That said, I look at things that, you know, where -- there's going to be a lot of gray areas. I just don't think this is a gray area. I guess that's the point. When somebody misuses and abuses a platform the way that Trump had done, and then according to Mark Zuckerberg -- Mark Zuckerberg himself wrote and admitted that Donald Trump, quote, used the platform, our platform, Facebook, “to incite a violent insurrection." Those are his words. So if Zuckerberg is saying that, if Facebook is saying this was used to create a violence insurrection, and their penalty allows for permanent suspension and they've only issued a two-year sentence, it just doesn't fit the action. That's not my opinion. That's their own assessment. So I think this isn't a gray area. There're probably are -- there are a lot of them. I just don't think a violent insurrection is a gray area that says, you know, you get to have your account back pretty soon -- just in time to attack a new election. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: I got to say, I think there's going to be a lot more to come especially considering the fact the former president is going to be speaking in just a couple hours. I can't help but think he's going to be talking exactly about this type of thing.