During today’s hearing, a January 6 rioter revealed the extent to which Trump and his social media posts influenced his actions, and the House select committee aired testimony from a former Twitter employee who admitted that the platform took a hands-off approach to former President Donald Trump. The testimonies highlight the real-life harm of Trump’s social media use – which the former president has never once apologized for.
Following the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, Facebook suspended Trump’s ability to post on Facebook and Instagram, publicly citing his use of Facebook “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” Ultimately, Trump’s ban became a two-year suspension, which could end in less than six months if Facebook decides “the risk to public safety has receded.” Elon Musk has similarly promised to reinstate Trump if he takes over Twitter.
On July 12, the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack held its seventh public hearing, which focused on how social media and extremism contributed to the events on January 6.
During the hearing, the committee aired testimony from a former Twitter employee who admitted that if Trump had been any other user, he would have been permanently suspended long before January 6. Trump often posted his tweets on Facebook, and similar to Twitter, that platform also gave Trump special treatment, failing to moderate his violative content and even changing policies to accommodate him.
During the hearing, rioter Stephen Ayres testified the extent to which Trump’s social media posts influenced his actions, as he went to Washington, D.C., for the pro-Trump rally, marched to the Capitol under the direction of Trump, and left right after Trump tweeted a video praising the rioters while reluctantly asking that they “go home.”
In addition to using social media to direct his supporters and incite violence, Trump repeatedly targeted his enemies and pushed misinformation. In fact, Media Matters found that between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, when Facebook suspended his account, roughly a quarter of these posts contained misinformation, content warranting an additional information label, or harmful rhetoric about others.
Even after being banned or suspended from all major social media platforms, Trump has continued to push misinformation to a smaller audience, repeating the same election lies that incited the January 6 insurrection at his post-presidency rallies and in his published statements. If allowed back on Facebook or Twitter, Trump would likely continue his previous social media behavior, regularly pushing harmful misinformation and extreme rhetoric to a large audience.