Social media giant Meta will soon announce whether or not it will allow former President Donald Trump back on its platforms. Trump's advertising on Meta platforms has been limited under his current suspension, during which Media Matters' research suggests he has shifted to advertising more with Google. Meta's forthcoming decision will reveal if it plans to prioritize user safety or the revenue Trump's advertising would generate for the company, which has been losing money since at least January 2022.
Trump has a well-documented history of using Meta’s platforms as a megaphone for misinformation and extreme rhetoric, including in ads. Ultimately, Trump was suspended from most of the mainstream social media platforms for inciting violence in the January 6 insurrection and has used his own social media platform, Truth Social, to push election misinformation and amplify the QAnon conspiracy theory. Trump’s activity on Truth Social clearly demonstrates the dangers of allowing him back on Meta’s platforms, but the company has historically shown a willingness to put its profits ahead of users.
Trump's joint fundraising PAC has been allowed to run ads on Meta’s platforms throughout the suspension -- including ads that pushed election misinformation -- as long as the ads weren’t “in his voice.” The limitations have reportedly made fundraising more difficult and the campaign “would leap at the opportunity to resume using his likeness in its Facebook advertisements."
“The advertising has been less efficient without his likeness,” [a person familiar with Trump’s operation] said. Allowing Trump himself back on the platform “would allow him to communicate again with tens of millions of followers. It would allow him to prospect again for fundraising and lower his cost for fundraising overall.”
A current Trump adviser said the former president has never used Facebook in the way he used Twitter, which became his primary medium for communicating with his political base as president before he was removed from the platform in the wake of the January 6 attack. Still, this person said, the Trump campaign would leap at the opportunity to resume using his likeness in its Facebook advertisements.
“It is the most important vehicle for fundraising and for reaching a lot of people in the persuadable audience,” the adviser said.
Advertising on Meta was crucial to Trump’s 2020 campaign. During the 2020 election season, Trump leaned on Meta’s advertising features to raise money and communicate with voters, reportedly spending more than $89 million before Election Day 2020, outpacing his spend of roughly $56 million on Google Ads during this period.
More recently, Trump’s Save America Joint Fundraising Committee has only run just over 100 ads from one of its many pages, Trump Updates, costing at least $14,200 between October 27, 2022, and January 24, 2023, which is dwarfed by the over $975,300 his PAC spent on nearly 370 Google ads for the same time frame and the millions Trump’s campaign spent on Meta ads in 2020.
Recent ads on Meta from Trump’s PAC request that the viewer complete polls responding to prompts, such as, “Would you vote for President Trump a 3rd Time?” “On a scale of 1-5, how excited are you for Trump's BIG announcement?” or “Are you ultra MAGA?” Several of the ads also make grandiose claims about Trump, such as claiming that he was “the greatest President of all time - there is no arguing with that.” These ads do not appear to include direct asks for or links to pages asking for donations — as many of Trump’s 2020 ads did. (After users follow the link in the recent ads to complete the polls, however, they are then asked for a donation on the next page.)
The current Google ads being run by Trump’s PAC are much more explicit, overtly requesting that viewers support “Donald J. Trump’s Official 2024 Presidential Campaign” and that they “donate now. No time to waste.” Several also link directly to Trump’s official campaign website, where a user is immediately asked for a donation.
Lifting Trump’s suspension from Meta’s platforms, and subsequently removing the limits on his advertising, would likely generate more profit for Meta — at a time when the company has been losing money. But whether it allows Trump back on its platforms or not will either continue the company’s pattern of putting profit ahead of everything else, including user safety, or indicate that the company may be reprioritizing.