Daily Bread for 1.26.23: Trump and Facebook

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a bit of morning snow and a high of 30. Sunrise is 7:14 AM and sunset 5:00 PM for 9h 46m 18s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 27.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1950, the Constitution of India comes into force, forming a republic. Rajendra Prasad is sworn in as the first President of India. Observed as Republic Day in India.

 Shannon Bond reports Meta allows Donald Trump back on Facebook and Instagram

Former President Donald Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook and Instagram more than two years after he was banned for inciting violence when his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s accounts will be reinstated “in the coming weeks” with new guardrails “to deter repeat offenses,” Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Facebook’s parent company Meta, said on Wednesday.

The “serious risk to public safety” that led Meta to suspend Trump in January 2021 “has sufficiently receded,” Clegg wrote in a blog post. Still, he said, Trump would face “heightened penalties” should he continue to break Meta’s rules, including removal of his posts and even a fresh two-year suspension.

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying – the good, the bad and the ugly – so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box. But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform,” Clegg said.

“There is, in effect, no committee,” said Al Lindsay, a four-decade veteran of the local party, who was ousted as committee chairman last year.

Aside: anyone going to Instagram for photos of Donald Trump has masochistic tendency. 

Meta is a private company, not a public institution, so Trump never had a First Amendment right to appear on the platform. They can kick him off if he violates their terms of service, and they can bring him back on if he complies with those terms. If a customer walks into shop and urinates on the floor, the shopkeeper has a right to escort the customer from the premises. 

As I’ve written this week, most people should be allowed to keep talking and writing. That’s true of Trump and it’s true of local politicians, residents, even special interests. 

See also What Facebook and Trump have in common (‘As the social network lifts its ban on the former president, both face an aging base and a struggle to stay relevant’): 

When Facebook and Twitter booted Donald Trump from their platforms two years ago, the moves felt momentous. Trump was still president. His supporters had just mounted a brazen, violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Facebook was America’s preeminent social network and a hotbed of political discourse and organizing. Twitter was the president’s primary megaphone.

Since then, much has changed. Trump is out of office and sidelined politically, though still influential. The wounds of Jan. 6 are unhealed but no longer fresh. Exiled from the largest platforms, Trump has retreated to a smaller social network of his own making, Truth Social, with which he claims (perhaps unpersuasively) to be satisfied.

And Facebook? Well, Facebook isn’t Facebook anymore — literally. The company changed its name to Meta in October 2021 as part of a startling pivot from social media to building a virtual-reality “metaverse” that its users have yet to embrace. More importantly, Facebook is no longer the social network, having lost market share, mindshare and much of America’s youth to the video platform TikTok.

All of which helps to explain why the company’s announcement Wednesday that it will reinstate Trump to Facebook and Instagram — an announcement made not by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but by former politico Nick Clegg, its public affairs chief — felt oddly anticlimactic. Not only because Trump may or may not in fact return, but because neither he nor the platforms themselves are the titanic forces in American culture and politics that they were when he left.

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