As the 2024 race for the White House gets underway, the former president is set to once again use some of the largest and most influential social media platforms after he was booted from them following the January 6 insurrection.
After Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Mr Trump now has control of his account on the platform again. His 2024 campaign is also formally petitioning the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – Meta – to open Mr Trump’s accounts on the platform back up.
Speaking to Fox News Digital on Wednesday, the former president admitted that his campaign had reached out to Meta but, in typical Trump form, denied he needed the accounts back
“We are talking to them, and we’ll see how it all works out,” he said.
“If they took us back, it would help them greatly, and that’s okay with me. But they need us more than we need them.”
Meta was due to make a decision on the future of Trump’s accounts some time this month.
While Trump has shunned Twitter since its decision in November to restore his account, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said that being back on Facebook would be ‘an important tool for the 2024 campaign to reach voters.”
“We believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse,” the campaign said in a letter to Meta seen by NBC.
While some people close to the former president thought he would threaten to sue, the campaign didn’t do so.
The campaign instead focused on the value of free speech and requested a “meeting to discuss President Trump’s prompt reinstatement to the platform”.
A spokesperson for Meta told NBC that they “will announce a decision in the coming weeks in line with the process we laid out”.
Both Twitter and Facebook banned Mr Trump from their platforms on 7 January 2021, the day after the Capitol riot when a mob of Trump supporters violently attempted to stop President Joe Biden from being certified as the winner of the 2020 election. The mob falsely believed the election had been rigged against Mr Trump, who had been lying about the outcome for months.
Facebook chose to put in place a temporary ban, to be reviewed after two years, on 7 January 2023.
Twitter’s ban was permanent, but Elon Musk reinstated Mr Trump’s account on 19 November after buying the platform. But Mr Trump hasn’t tweeted yet, instead favouring his own Truth Social platform.
An anonymous Republican told NBC that “Trump is probably coming back to Twitter. It’s just a question of how and when”.
“He’s been talking about it for weeks, but Trump speaks for Trump, so it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do or say or when,” the individual added.
Another anonymous Trump ally told the outlet that the former president has been asking people for weeks for their thoughts on him returning to the social media platforms. His campaign has also been working on what his first tweet back should be.
An anonymous Trump advisor told NBC that the newly Republican House of Representatives might exert pressure on Meta to honour the two-year ban.
“If Facebook wants to have this fight, fine, but the House is leverage, and keeping Trump off Facebook just looks political,” the advisor told the outlet.
California House Democrat Adam Schiff told Meta in a letter alongside three other congressional Democrats that “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”.
Returning to Twitter and Facebook would significantly expand Mr Trump’s reach – he has 4.8 million followers on Truth Social, but 88 million on Twitter and 34 million on Facebook.
Twitter was seen as being part of Mr Trump’s political ascendance, but his use of the platform even prompted some Republicans to argue against it.
The House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot on January 6 states in its report that Mr Trump’s call to action – “Be there, will be wild!” – drew his supporters to Washington, DC. The panel also notes that he initially refused to use his Twitter account to call on his supporters to step down, instead egging on the mob by blasting then-Vice President Mike Pence for not helping Mr Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Twitter and Facebook banned Mr Trump the following day.
At the time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that “the shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden”.
Mr Zuckerberg criticised Mr Trump’s “decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world”.
“We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence,” the CEO said.
He noted that Facebook had removed or labelled previous posts by Mr Trump that violated Facebook’s policies, but didn’t ban him before the insurrection because “the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech”.
“But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving [the] use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” he wrote.
The president of global affairs at Meta, former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, announced on 4 June 2021, that the Facebook ban on Mr Trump would last two years, effective from 7 January.
“At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” Mr Clegg said in a statement at the time. “We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. 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 re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”
The Trump campaign cited Mr Clegg in its letter to Meta, noting that in October, he said that “any private company … should tread with great thoughtfulness when seeking to, basically, silence political voices”.
“We agree,” the 2024 Trump campaign wrote.
“We also believe that a continued ban would basically constitute, in the words of Mr Clegg, a deliberate effort by a private company to silence Mr Trump’s political voice,” they added. “Moreover, every day that President Trump’s political voice remains silenced furthers an inappropriate interference in the American political and election process.”
The Washington Post obtained a 122-page draft memo from the House panel on January 6 outlining how Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, were aware of the widespread use of violent language on the right before the insurrection.
Twitter in particular failed to act on the warnings coming from its own staff concerning the violent rhetoric on the platform and also went out of its way to avoid punishing conservatives, especially then-President Trump, as the company was concerned about acts of retaliation.
The draft report reveals how several platforms didn’t take strong action to limit extremist posts until the Capitol attack had already taken place even though there were concerns about online content.
“The sum of this is that alt-tech, fringe, and mainstream platforms were exploited in tandem by right-wing activists to bring American democracy to the brink of ruin,” the memo states, according to The Post. “These platforms enabled the mobilization of extremists on smaller sites and whipped up conservative grievance on larger, more mainstream ones.”
The paper noted that little of the proof in support of those conclusions was revealed during the panel’s public hearings or in its 845-page final report that had a strong focus on the actions of Mr Trump.