Former president Donald Trump turned to his social media platform Truth Social this week to attack a familiar target: former Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman.
Trump’s posts stoked an old baseless claim that Freeman was part of an election-rigging scheme that cost him the election — false claims that two years ago led to a torrent of harassment and death threats against Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who was also an election worker.
“What will the Great State of Georgia do with the Ruby Freeman MESS?” Trump said in a post on Tuesday. “Why not just tell the TRUTH, get rid of the turmoil and guilt, and take our Country back from the evils and treachery of the Radical Left monsters who want to see America die?”
Freeman’s lawyer, Von DuBose, said in a statement that the claims that Freeman was involved in falsifying ballots “have been proven false over and over again” but that her life has been upended and she still feels threatened.
“Nobody, not even a former president, has a right to intentionally spread damaging, defamatory lies about fellow citizens,” DuBose said.
It’s not the first time in recent months that Trump has used Truth Social to spread false accusations about the 2020 election. Since the 2022 midterms, when some Trump-backed candidates lost their races, the former president has taken to his platform regularly to assert that the last presidential contest was plagued by widespread voter fraud or that the election was stolen.
But his comments about Freeman,who told the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that she was forced from her home of 20 years because of the harassment she experienced after the 2020 vote, illustrate the predicament facing Facebook parent company Meta as it weighs whether to restore Trump’s access to his social media megaphone.
Meta suspended Trump indefinitely onJan. 7, 2021, following his praise and encouragement of rioters who stormed the Capitol. The company’s Oversight Board, an independent group of human rights experts, academics and lawyers that issues binding rulings on some of Meta’s content moderation decisions, later upheld the suspension but criticized the company for not establishing criteria for suspending a user indefinitely.
The company then shortened the suspension to two years and said, when that period was over, it would assess whether the public safety risk had subsided enough to restore his account. Those two years end Saturday.
For now, Trump’s account remains suspended. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement that the company “will announce a decision in the coming weeks in line with the process we laid out.”
Where Meta comes down on that decision could have widespread ramifications, experts say. While the country isn’t experiencing the same threat of a violent political insurrection that characterized the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, Trump’s rhetoric about election fraud — and the movement of people that were inspired by his remarks — continues to percolate online. That should be enough, some argue, to keep him off the platform.
Others say that without the threat of imminent violence, Meta could make the case that Trump’s account should be restored. They note that with Trump already declaring his 2024 candidacy for president, continuing his suspension would constitute an unprecedented restriction of the digital speech of a major American presidential candidate.
“These platforms are in a difficult position of deciding whether they’re going to make their audience available only to one candidate but not another,”said Nate Persily, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in election issues and free speech.