Earlier this week the decision was taken by Facebook and their Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to address the current temporary ban on Former President of the United States Donald Trump. This decision was made after a chaotic start to the year and numerous years of usage of social media platforms to further his political aims. During the 2016 Presidential election and the following four years of the Trump administration, President Trump made use of twitter in particular in order to connect with his voter base and make sure that his supporters felt their needs were being addressed.
While this may seem like a revolutionary usage of the platform, one which brought a swift uptake in support for the then president, it also brought out the darker side in the Former President’s personality. He would often retweet conspiracy theories from alt-right websites making dubious and often unsubstantiated claims, making attacks on other public and political figures alongside the mainstream media and further adding to the political divisions of the United States. This came during a period in which the nation has not been this polarised since the Civil Rights movement and the Civil War before it.
The breaking point however came on the Sixth of January 2021, when claims of voter fraud alongside other such allegations of a stolen election. All of which culminated with the day on which the election results were to be certified, this was met with a counter event which quickly spiralled out of control. In this regard, the then President’s inflammatory statements and cult of personality which had been cultivated by social media, led to the storming of Capitol Hill. This was an event which had not occurred since the capture of Washington by British forces during the War of 1812. Among the casualties, suffering and fear instilled not only in elected officials but ordinary citizens alike, the biggest of social media companies realized they now had a part to play.
The social media bans of the Former President began with an initial ban by Facebook and followed on to the degree that all of the major platforms had some form of ban on Former President Trump. The form of which differed from platform to platform, with Facebook’s ban being a temporary one with scope for extension whereas Twitter’s ban seems to remain permanent in nature. This decision while seemingly justified by the incomprehensibly terrible aftermath of Donald Trump’s vitriolic statements, has come in for some criticism by certain areas of the public and as such will remain a difficult line to maintain in the coming months.
Earlier this week however, Facebook in a move which will be monitored by the other such social media outlets who have also banned the former POTUS, have decided to extend the ban on their platform. The decision was taken by the Facebook Oversight Committee, an aspect of the organization which remains independent but is funded and was created by the company. The initial decision is to extend the ban by six months, with a further opportunity for yet another extension following on from the end of this initial period.
The reason why this remains controversial, is due to the reluctance on the part of the right-wing aspect of the American political divide to allow larger media entities to infringe upon their right to the freedom of expression. Similar sentiments have also been expressed by constitutionalists who remain uncertain as to the validity of such a ban. For the moment however, it seems unlikely to be challenged given Donald Trump’s already pressing legal concerns and financial difficulties since leaving office.
Instead in an attempt to make use of a workaround Mr Trump has launched a new communications platform which will make use of a blog like format. Similar actions to those on other platforms, such as liking or sharing will be available to users however comments will not be allowed. In response to criticism to this new site, a spokesperson has however definitively claimed that the site will not operate as a social media platform rather a site allowing for supporters to keep up to date with the former President’s statements and activity.
Whether this site will enjoy much traffic or be banned along similar lines as above remains to be seen however.