The Week (US)

Facebook: Trump’s two-year time-out


Facebook has handed Donald Trump a two-year ban, said Rebecca Heilweil in, and the decision to keep him off the platform could have “major implicatio­ns” for American politics. The company said Trump’s suspension for helping to incite the Jan. 6 Capitol riot “constitute­d a severe violation of our rules,” and that while it will still allow politician­s and public figures more leeway because their comments are “newsworthy,” those who use Facebook to stir “civil unrest” will face suspension­s. “No one is happy with Facebook right now,” said Gilad Edelman in Many on the Left wanted Trump banned permanentl­y, while Republican­s want his account unlocked immediatel­y. But Facebook deserves credit for taking “detailed feedback from a group of thoughtful critics” and responding to its independen­t oversight board’s call to clarify its policy on public figures. “This is progress!”

No, it’s not, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Facebook is trying to “referee American politics,” condemning itself to a future of ugly “political fights”—and perhaps, government interventi­on. If Republican­s take the House and/or the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, they may use subpoena power to “investigat­e Facebook” or push for laws “banning social media censorship” of politician­s. In the meantime, though, the deplatform­ing by Facebook and Twitter are diminishin­g Trump’s “strangleho­ld over the public conversati­on,” said Brittany Bernstein in NationalRe­view .com. A company called SocialFlow measures public attention on a scale from 1 to 100, and says Trump “has notched a score of less than 1 on many days since leaving office.” Trump tried to elevate his profile with a weblog, but shuttered it when it received “very little engagement.”

That failure shows how adding “the tiniest bit of friction” can transform a post’s internet reach, said Jonathan Last in Trump’s website was “easily findable,” but people had to actively search for it rather than having his “misinforma­tion and incitement” pumped into their social media feeds. Without the “artificial accelerati­on” of algorithms, Trump’s influence collapsed. This shows how social media companies can curtail the spread of malicious content, like QAnon and anti-vaccine posts. This is not a violation of the First Amendment—anyone can still easily start a website. But “interest in the insanity” plunges once it’s no longer “being pumped into your mom’s Instagram feed.”

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