From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Trump will be allowed back on Facebook
Date January 26, 2023 12:30 PM
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‘We default to letting people speak, even when what they have to say is distasteful or factually wrong,’ a Meta president wrote. Email not displaying correctly?
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** Trump will be allowed back on Facebook
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

First, Twitter caved and allowed former President Donald Trump back on its website after a supposed lifetime ban.

Now Meta, which oversees Facebook and Instagram, says Trump can return, too.

As I wrote last week ([link removed]) , apparently time and Elon Musk can heal all transgressions.

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan called it ([link removed]) “the most politically consequential decision Meta … has ever made.”

Trump’s reinstatement comes two years and a couple weeks after he was suspended for riling up and praising those who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection. At the time, in response to its Oversight Board, Facebook said it would review Trump’s suspension after two years. The second anniversary just passed and Trump’s representatives put heat on Meta, writing, “We believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse.”

Apparently, Meta agrees.

In a blog post Wednesday ([link removed]) , Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote that Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts would be restored in the “coming weeks.” Clegg wrote, “The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box. But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act.”

So what about Trump, who clearly created a risk of real-world harm on Jan. 6? Clegg wrote, “The suspension was an extraordinary decision taken in extraordinary circumstances. The normal state of affairs is that the public should be able to hear from a former President of the United States, and a declared candidate for that office again, on our platforms. Now that the time period of the suspension has elapsed, the question is not whether we choose to reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, but whether there remain such extraordinary circumstances that extending the suspension beyond the original two-year period is justified.”

And about going forward?

Clegg wrote, “Like any other Facebook or Instagram user, Mr. Trump is subject to our Community Standards. In light of his violations, he now also faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses — penalties which will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol ([link removed]) . In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation.”

As far as this new “updated protocol” regarding public figures and civil unrest, Meta said it will use several factors to determine suspensions:
* The severity of the violation and the public figure’s history on Facebook or Instagram, including current and past violations.
* The public figure’s potential influence over, and relationship to, the individuals engaged in violence.
* The severity of the violence and any related physical harm.

Meta is also planning some other guardrails. For instance, if a post doesn’t necessarily break Meta’s community standards, but poses a risk, Meta says it “may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools. This step would mean that content would remain visible on the public figure’s account but would not be distributed in people's Feeds, even if they follow that public figure.”

Clegg told Axios’ Sara Fischer ([link removed]) , “We just do not want — if (Trump) is to return to our services — for him to do what he did on January 6, which is to use our services to delegitimize the 2024 election, much as he sought to discredit the 2020 election.”

Fischer wrote, “If Trump posts content that violates the company's standards, but falls within Meta's characterization of ‘newsworthy content’ — meaning the public interest in understanding what Trump said outweighs any potential harm — the company may opt to restrict the distribution of the content but leave it up.”

For many, Trump should never be allowed back on social media, while others believe he never should have been suspended.

Clegg writes, “The fact is people will always say all kinds of things on the internet. We default to letting people speak, even when what they have to say is distasteful or factually wrong. Democracy is messy and people should be able to make their voices heard. We believe it is both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however distasteful or inaccurate, is part of the rough and tumble of life in a free society.”

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** Wait, what?

For Clegg to write, “We default to letting people speak, even when what they have to say is distasteful or factually wrong” is beyond alarming and potentially deadly.

Many of us are believers in the First Amendment. I work in an office that has the First Amendment in marble at the entrance of the building.

But to hear one of the top executives of one of the most powerful companies and social media networks in the world say that posting factually wrong things is just part of the “rough and tumble of life in a free society” is, frankly, stunning and perilous.

Posting misinformation that is harmful cannot be sloughed off by saying it is all — as Clegg put it — the “messy” part of democracy. After all, democracy must include some kind of responsibility, shouldn’t it?

It should be noted, Axios’ Fischer told CNN that Clegg “takes full responsibility for this decision, not (Meta CEO) Mark Zuckerberg.”

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, said in a statement, “Make no mistake — by allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refueling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine. This not only will have an impact on Instagram and Facebook users, but it also presents intensified threats to civil society and an existential threat to U.S. democracy as a whole. … Meta knows the impact of bringing Trump back — the company knows he will turn Facebook and Instagram into a cesspool of hate, violence, and extremism — but it doesn’t care.”

Carusone added, “The fact that Meta’s announcement comes with a caveat that it needs to delay its implementation to develop new technology to contain Trump’s lies and hate tells you all you need to know.”

** What’s next?
Donald Trump, shown here speaking in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

There is no word yet if Trump plans to return to Facebook and Instagram. Meta is going to need a couple of weeks to put the various guardrails in place for his return. You would assume once he is actually allowed, Trump will start posting, considering his campaign recently pressed Meta for his reinstatement.

Elon Musk had Trump’s Twitter account restored last November, but Trump hasn’t tweeted since Jan. 8, 2021.

It figures to be only a matter of time before Trump is tweeting up a storm and posting on Facebook, especially as his presidential campaign gets cooking.

As Donie O’Sullivan said on CNN, “The really, really important thing here for the Trump campaign, particularly as we go into 2024, is in previous campaigns, Trump has spent hundreds of millions on targeted Facebook advertising. That is going to be a very, very important tool as we go into 2024.

** Newsmax dropped by DirecTV

DirecTV has dropped Newsmax, the very conservative, pro-Trump network. DirecTV says it’s because of carriage fees. Newsmax blamed it on “censorship.”

A DirecTV spokesperson told The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona ([link removed]) , “On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base. Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via, and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Play. We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content.”

In an article on Newsmax’s website ([link removed]) , Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said, “This is a blatant act of political discrimination and censorship against Newsmax. The most extreme liberal channels, even with tiny ratings, get fees from AT&T's DirecTV, but Newsmax and OAN need to be deplatformed.”

To be clear, Ruddy’s allegations are just that — allegations. There is no proof DirecTV, which has 13 million subscribers, has dropped Newsmax because of its political leanings.

Baragona wrote, “The loss of DirecTV will take a huge chunk out of Newsmax’s current cable footprint, which currently sits at roughly 50 million households. (The network claims it is available in an additional 50 million homes via over-the-top and digital platforms.)”

Meanwhile, CBS MoneyWatch's Aimee Picchi reports ([link removed]) “41 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to DirecTV warning that they might open hearings on the issue.”

** Look who’s back

It was only last August that respected media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote her final column ([link removed]) for The Washington Post. She left on her accord and said she was off to do a little teaching (at Duke University) and work on book projects.

But on Wednesday, Guardian US announced ([link removed]) Sullivan was signing on to write a once-a-week column on “media, politics, culture and the urgent moral and political debates of the moment.”

I reached out to Sullivan on Wednesday about her return to weekly column writing and this is what she wrote to me:

“I definitely wasn’t out job-hunting (I got an appointment at Duke and was bringing out my memoir) but the Guardian US editor Betsy Reed got in touch and suggested I do some writing for the opinion section. We had lunch in the West Village a few weeks ago and very quickly this came together.”

Sullivan added, “It gives me the chance to write beyond media, and I hope I have something to contribute at a crucial moment for democracy. I love that the Guardian makes no apology for its generally progressive stance and I appreciate that it has no paywall so it can be read by all. All in all, my big retirement from column-writing lasted only about four months; maybe if I’d taken up golf …”

Here’s to being glad she didn’t take up a new hobby.

Before the Post, Sullivan was the executive editor at her hometown Buffalo News and the public editor at The New York Times. For the past six years, her columns in The Washington Post became must-reads for those who follow the media. The Post hasn’t replaced her, and The New York Times has gone more than a year without a “Media Equation” media columnist since Ben Smith left to start his own website (Semafor). So reading Sullivan again in the Guardian US is a welcome return.

Katharine Viner, Guardian editor-in-chief, said in a statement, “Margaret is one of the most influential voices in American media, respected equally for her integrity, her sharp analysis, and her distinguished, glass-ceiling-breaking career. I’m thrilled she’s joining the Guardian to provide our readers with her intelligent commentary.”

Reed, the Guardian US editor, added, “There’s no one I would rather read on the intersection of media and politics than Margaret Sullivan, and I am delighted that Guardian readers will be treated to her bracingly clear analysis on a weekly basis. In a world overflowing with misinformation and too-hot takes, Margaret brings a cool intelligence and unsparing eye to even the most confusing and difficult issues, never shying from controversy or punting on a hard call.”

Sullivan’s first column for Guardian US is already out: “How I would fix Twitter if I were CEO.” ([link removed])

Sullivan wrote she would first start by “putting out the multiple dumpster fires blazing in Twitter HQ.” She also wrote she would figure out a new vision for Twitter’s future and hire a public editor — or a team of public editors.

Sullivan wrote, “Of course, there’s a real question about whether Twitter — in just a few months — has self-destructed so thoroughly that it’s no longer worth saving. And there’s another real question about whether Musk, despite his words, would really be willing to step aside enough to let a new CEO do her job.”

** A farewell column

Peter Bhatia stepped down last week as editor and vice president of the Detroit Free Press. He ran a farewell column ([link removed]) this week.

Bhatia thanked his staff and the readers — even the “regular angry emailers who really had nothing nice to say about anything, and just needed to vent.”

He talked extensively about his love and respect for the staff of the Free Press and wrote, “Please keep supporting the Free Press. Please buy a digital subscription to help support quality local journalism. The work of journalism in our society has never been more important. Democracy demands it of us.”

** See ya

Well, that didn’t take long. Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier, was allowed back on Twitter this week, much to the outrage of anyone with good taste and decent morals. But less than 24 hours back on the site, he has been kicked off again.

Upon his return, Fuentes posted antisemitic catchphrases and held a Twitter Spaces live chat (attended by 14,000 people) that praised Adolf Hitler.

Fuentes had been banned in July 2021 and most figured he would never be allowed to return.

Normally, no one would care about some bigoted troll on Twitter, but Fuentes ended up having dinner in Mar-a-Lago with former President Donald Trump last November. Fuentes was there with Ye (the musician formerly known as Kanye West). Trump said at the time that he did not know who Fuentes was, and knew nothing of his bigoted views.

** Laugh of the day
Donald Trump, shown here playing golf last October. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

This really has nothing to do with the media, but I just had to include it because it’s so absurdly funny. The headline alone on this story by Tom D’Angelo in The Palm Beach Post is dead solid perfect: “Trump declares himself the winner of his own club championship — in the Trumpiest way ever.” ([link removed])

Trump said he won the Senior Club Championship at Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach. But he did so without playing in the first round of the tournament.

Now get this: Trump said he played a really good round two days before the tournament and that round would count as his opening round for the tournament. The tournament used the Modified Stableford method, which adds or takes away points based on pars, bogeys and birdies and so forth. Tournament players were apparently stunned to show up for the second round of the tournament to find that Trump had a five-point lead.

Trump then bragged about his victory on Truth Social ([link removed]) : “Competed against many fine golfers and was hitting the ball long and straight. The reason that I announce this on fabulous TRUTH is that, in a very real way, it serves as a physical exam, only MUCH tougher. You need strength and stamina to WIN, & I have strength & stamina – most others don’t. You also need strength & stamina to GOVERN!”

Seriously, this is all a true story.

Hey, maybe the Dallas Cowboys can claim they had a really good practice two days before last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers and get that game overturned.

** Media tidbits
* I loved this package from my Poynter colleague Kristen Hare: “A photographer visited more than 100 newspapers in rural Kansas.” ([link removed])
* Also from Poynter, Angela Fu with “Gannett owns a student paper. It also experienced cuts.” ([link removed])
* Slate’s Nitish Pahwa with “Narendra Modi’s Censorship Has Reached an Alarming New Level.” ([link removed])
* More Oscars leftovers: Variety’s Zack Sharf with “25 Great Films Rejected by the Oscars in 2023.” ([link removed])
* Axios’ Audrey Kennedy with “St. Cloud Times' newsroom loses lone reporter.” ([link removed])
* The New York Times has hired Abbie VanSickle ([link removed]) as a Supreme Court reporter. VanSickle goes to the Times from The Marshall Project. She previously worked at the Tampa Bay Times and also practiced law as a public defender in Seattle.

** Hot type
* Katherine Hu, assistant editor at The Atlantic, with “An Asian American Grief.” ([link removed])
* Esquire’s Rachel Dodes with “Social Media CEOs Were Once the Rockstars Of Their Generation.” ([link removed])
* Excellent video journalism from The New York Times’ Kassie Bracken, Nailah Morgan, Mark Boyer and Elliot deBruyn: “‘Get Your Hands Off Me’: Student Arrest Puts Role of School Police Under Scrutiny.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
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* Lead With Influence ([link removed]) (Feb. 2023) (Seminar) — Register by Jan 30 ([link removed]) .
* Poynter’s Beat Academy ([link removed]) (March-Oct.) (Webinar series) — Enroll now ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at .
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