Meta just gave Trump the green light to push harmful misinformation and extremism on its platforms
On January 25, Meta announced that it would be lifting Donald Trump’s suspension — the latest example in the company’s long history of prioritizing profit over user safety
Update (3/17/23): On March 17, Trump posted on Facebook for the first time since regaining access to his account. The post was captioned, “I’M BACK!” and included a short video from his 2016 election night speech and an ad for his reelection campaign.
Meta is allowing disgraced former President Donald Trump to return to its platforms, ignoring his continued “risk to public safety,” which is the bar the company set for his return. Meta’s decision is a green light for Trump to promote harmful content on its platforms, and it shows that the company still prioritizes profit — and appeasement of right-wing figures — over public safety.
On January 25, Meta announced that it “will be ending the suspension of Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks.” Meta suspended Trump from posting on its platforms more than two years ago, publicly citing his use of Facebook “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” Meta has decided that “the risk to public safety,” which it set out as the measure for ending his ban, has “sufficiently receded” — a flawed assessment that gives Trump access to a platform with billions of global users.
Meta’s decision comes after Trump petitioned Meta to reinstate his accounts on January 17, and after Twitter CEO Elon Musk reinstated him on November 19. Trump has not yet posted on his reinstated Twitter account but is reportedly preparing to return to both Facebook and Twitter, and he doesn’t want to re-up his exclusivity agreement with his social media company, Truth Social.
Since starting to actively post on Truth Social in April — while suspended from most mainstream social media platforms — Trump has repeatedly pushed election misinformation and amplified the QAnon conspiracy theory:
- In October, Media Matters analyzed Trump’s posts on Truth Social and found at least 58 mentions of the word “rigged” in at least 55 posts, and at least 255 mentions of the word “election” in at least 195 posts.
- Additionally, Media Matters found that nearly half of Trump's posts on Truth Social in the week after the 2022 midterm election pushed election misinformation, including baseless falsehoods about mail-in ballots and voting machines, or amplified QAnon-promoting accounts.
- As of January 25, Trump has amplified QAnon-promoting accounts more than 400 times, far outpacing the pace of his QAnon account amplifications when he used Twitter. Notably, Trump has amplified explicit QAnon content, including with QAnon imagery and video.
Trump’s current activity on Truth Social mirrors the behavior on Facebook that resulted in his suspension, as he often flouted content moderation policies by posting misinformation, promoting extremism, and even posting incitements of violence. For instance, Trump repeatedly posted claims of voter fraud, which violated numerous Facebook policies. In a study of all of Trump’s Facebook posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, when he was suspended, Media Matters found that roughly a quarter of the posts contained COVID-19 misinformation, election lies, or extreme rhetoric about his critics.
Trump also repeatedly abused his ad privileges, running hundreds of ads fundraising off of voter fraud falsehoods, pushing COVID-19 misinformation in ads, and sharing a Nazi symbol nearly 100 times in his advertisements. Despite his suspension and previous abuses of ad privileges, Meta allowed Trump to continue to advertise through his joint fundraising committee, and some of these ads contained election misinformation about the 2020 election, including claims that it was “tainted” and implying that Trump is “the true president.”
Media Matters has documented that the fundraising committee spent hundreds of thousands on Meta ads during the suspension despite limitations to his advertising, which reportedly made fundraising more difficult for Trump’s campaign. After the midterms and when he announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, the Trump campaign’s online ad spending seemingly shifted from Meta’s platforms to Google. By lifting Trump’s suspension, and subsequently removing limits on advertising, Meta will likely generate more profit — at a time when the company has been losing money.
Meta has long prioritized profit and public image over user safety, while also capitulating to and giving preferential treatment to right-wing politicians who continue to push false claims of systemic bias against conservatives online. Allowing Trump back on is just the latest example of this harmful pattern.