Facebook was key to the Trump insurrection

Technology | Adam Conner 16 Mar 2021

A visit to Donald Trump's now-defunct Facebook page is to stroll through the vestiges of his campaigns and his presidency: posts full of racism, of name calling and attacks, and ads full of outright lies.

Civil rights groups and activists have long pointed out that Facebook's treatment of Trump is utterly unique: no other individual would be allowed to act like he did on the platform. Trump was allowed to stay only because Facebook essentially rewrote its rules for all politicians, in an attempt preemptively to allow Trump's bad behavior. Even despite these political accommodations from Facebook, Trump still routinely violated those few rules that remained.

While the US Capitol was under assault on January 6, the then-president posted a series of messages and videos to his Facebook page half-heartedly telling the insurrectionists to go home.

He could not resist repeating his big lie about the stolen election, telling them in a video: "We love you. You're very special."

He followed with a falsehood-filled post that said: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly unfairly treated for so long."

These posts were cited as the reason that Facebook decided to suspend temporarily Trump from Facebook and Instagram on January 6 and to extend it indefinitely the next day.

On January 21, the day after Joe Biden was sworn in as president, Facebook exercised its sole privilege to refer the suspension of Trump to the Facebook Oversight Board. Facebook created and funded the board in 2017 to serve as a place for appeals and review of a limited set of its content moderation decisions, strategically excluding posts it leaves up and ads. The board will now determine if Trump will be allowed back on Facebook or not.

Even if you believe that the vile misuse of Trump's Facebook page was acceptable before the election, Trump's actions after the polls closed are clear grounds for his permanent removal from Facebook.

Between November 4, 2020, and January 6, 2021, Trump waged a campaign, largely through social media, to discredit the election results and perpetuate the lie that the election had been stolen.

This effort started only hours after polls closed on November 3. Trump followed through on what he had threatened to do for months: against all available evidence, he claimed the election had been stolen.

Early the next day, he posted, "We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it."

Over the weeks, he unleashed more than 760 Facebook posts to try to delegitimize the election.

After the election, Trump removed himself from the public spotlight, appearing in public and on camera 28 times in the 65 days - practically invisible for a sitting president. However, while the president was absent from the public eye, he was attempting a coup online: using his Facebook and Twitter account, to promote his big lie of the stolen election.

His Facebook posts included frequent lies that the election was stolen and promotion of the infamous January 6 rally itself. In fact, when the impeachment brief filed by the House cited 29 of Trump's tweets, 25 of those tweets also appeared in an almost identical form on his Facebook page.

Together, all of these factors show that Trump's Facebook page was an essential tool in his attempts to delegitimize the election, gather the crowd on January 6, and encourage them to violence while they were still in the building.

It is telling that many consider Twitter and Facebook's suspension of Trump's accounts after January 6 to be one of the critical components to the transfer of power on January 20.

Trump has shown that once he loses an election, his primary use of Facebook is to delegitimize the elections and attempt to overthrow the government. It is clear that if he's allowed back on Facebook, he'll go right back to assaulting the fundamentals of the US democratic system.

The Oversight Board must permanently suspend Donald Trump from Facebook.

Tribune Content Agency

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