Donald Trump's Twitter ban appears to be permanent, whether the former president runs again for elected office or not, but the Republican has held out hope that he might yet return to Facebook. That now appears likely, though he'll apparently have to wait a while.
Facebook announced Friday a two-year ban of former President Donald Trump from its platforms, including Instagram, until at least January 2023. Facebook's vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said that Trump's actions on its social media networks "constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols."
Evidently, Trump's return to Facebook in 2023 will not be automatic: the company added today that in two years, the company will revisit Trump's suspension and assess potential risks. Nick Clegg's statement went on to say, "When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts."
To appreciate why this story is so notable, let's review how we arrived at this point.
After years of Trump using social-media platforms to poison the discourse, Facebook decided in January that the Republican had simply gone too far. After the then-president incited an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, the planet's largest social-media company decided to suspend Trump's account to Facebook and Instagram.
The former president hoped that Facebook's Oversight Board would reverse the decision, restore Trump's account, and deliver a dramatic boost to the Republican's online presence. Last month, the quasi-independent panel did largely the opposite, concluding that the company was right to suspend Trump "given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence." The board added that Trump's obsessive lying "created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible."
The announcement, however, wasn't necessarily the final word on the subject. The Oversight Board's also encouraged Facebook executives to make a determination on their own about Trump's future on the platform. That news came today.
The effects on the former president's reach are real. Axios reported last month, for example, that the Republican's confidants see Facebook as "the linchpin" to his fundraising and online political strategy.
While Trump is known for his connection to Twitter, Facebook has always been central to his campaign strategy. His team used the social network relentlessly in 2016 and 2020 to raise money and energize hardcore supporters.... Trump and his aides have publicly minimized the political consequences of him being kicked off these platforms.... Behind the scenes, though, the reality is they're anxious to be re-platformed — and on Facebook especially because of its superior power as a fundraising tool.
In theory, this news might encourage Trump to refocus his energies into his blog, but it was shuttered this week -- just 29 days after its launch -- after failing to generate much of an audience.
Postscript: Trump responded to today's news in predictably hysterical fashion, saying that Facebook has "insulted" his followers. The former president added that the election was "rigged" and Facebook "shouldn't be allowed to get away with this censoring."
In a follow-up statement, Trump went on to say, "Next time I'm in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!"