Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Jan. 30 sent a letter to Meta urging the tech giant to reverse its decision to reinstate President Donald Trump to Facebook.
Trump was initially removed from Meta’s social media platforms Facebook and Instagram in January 2021 following the Capitol breach. At the time, Meta claimed that Trump was responsible for the breakdown of order at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally as its justification for removing the then-sitting president from the world’s largest social media platform.
At the time, Meta justified the removal on the grounds that Trump “[maintained] an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and [made] persistent calls to action,” creating “an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.”
Now, Meta has decided to reverse Trump’s suspension.
The move comes after Trump announced that he would run for the presidency in 2024. Social media platforms have over the past decade become a crucial means for candidates to get their message out.
In a letter to Meta President of Global Affairs Nicholas Clegg, Schiff and Whitehouse asked Meta to change course (pdf).
“Following the 2022 midterm elections, we write to urge Meta to maintain its commitment to keeping dangerous and unfounded election denial content off its platform,” the lawmakers wrote. “To that end, we also urge Meta and its leadership to continue the suspension of former president Donald Trump’s Facebook account beyond January, and to carefully monitor and counter the spread of harmful election misinformation, including the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election, on Facebook.”
“We … supported Meta’s decision to suspend the Facebook account of former president Trump,” the two wrote.
“For Meta to credibly maintain a legitimate election integrity policy, it is essential that your company maintain its platform ban on former president Trump,” the lawmakers continued.
They argued that lifting the ban would contravene the platform’s stated reasons for removing Trump in the first place.
“When initially suspending the account, Facebook’s statement said, ‘If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to reevaluate until that risk has receded.'”
That risk, Schiff and White House argued, has not receded.
“Two years later, we can see unequivocally that Trump is still spreading the Big Lie and thus undermining our democracy,” they wrote, repeating the central thesis of the now-defunct Jan. 6 panel.
The letter continued: “Trump has continued to post harmful election content on Truth Social that would likely violate Facebook’s policies, and we have every reason to believe he would bring similar conspiratorial rhetoric back to Facebook, if given the chance.”
As examples of such “conspiratorial rhetoric,” they pointed to comments Trump had made on Truth Social about election fraud in Michigan and Arizona’s statewide races.
Lawmakers Ask for Tighter Restrictions
The two lawmakers asked Meta not to “alter or rollback” its policies on what people are and are not permitted to say about election fraud.
During election seasons, social media companies are known to place tighter restrictions on rules against so-called “misinformation.” Because these are specific to the election season, these restrictions are often loosened after the election finishes.
In their letter, Schiff and Whitehouse asked Meta not to substantially alter its restrictive “misinformation” policies in the wake of the 2022 election.
“Doing so in this current environment, in which election disinformation continuously erodes trust in the integrity of the voting process,” the two argued, “would be a tragic mistake.”
They added, “Meta must commit to strong election misinformation policies year-round, as we are still witnessing falsehoods about voting and the prior elections spreading on your platform.
“Given the continued election denial rhetoric, we urge Meta to recommit to focusing on election integrity year-round, while keeping Congress fully informed about its efforts,” Schiff and Whitehouse wrote. “We believe that part of the commitment to election integrity should be ensuring that those who maintain the unfounded, dangerous narrative of the 2020 election are not allowed or encouraged to spread the lie to foster engagement on Facebook.”
Trump’s account was already reinstated to Twitter, from which he was also removed at the time. However, the former president has yet to make a return to the platform. At the time of publication, Trump’s last tweet was made on Jan. 8, 2021, just before his suspension.
Thus, it is unclear if the former president would be equally reticent about returning to Facebook and Instagram.