“The Incoherence of Facebook’s Trump Decision”

David Graham for The Atlantic:

Whatever one thinks of Meta’s decision to allow Donald Trump back on Facebook and Instagram, how the company is doing so is already shambolic. This is a man who tried to stay in office despite losing the 2020 election and who incited a violent attack against Congress, efforts which Meta apparently found sufficiently dangerous to take the drastic action of banning him, then the president of the United States, from its platforms. But now Meta is lifting the ban, and as a Meta spokesperson told CNN’s Oliver Darcy, the company will permit Trump to attack the legitimacy of the 2020 election without repercussions.

Why would Meta do this? The company seems to understand that Trump’s attacks undermine democracy and can destabilize the country. The spokesperson also told Darcy that if Trump works to undermine the upcoming 2024 election, then he could face action from the company. (What actions those might be, and whether they would have teeth or simply represent the gnashing of them, is left unstated.) This distinction makes no sense, and it demonstrates the incoherence of Meta’s handling of Trump….

Second, the danger posed by Trump’s lies about the 2020 election remains. “Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out,” Meta’s Nick Clegg said in a statement, citing a review of “the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment.” This is unpersuasive. The 2020 election is further in the past now, but not that much further, and one reason it can’t be relegated to history is that Trump continues to surface it—and the direct harms continue. The recent arrest of Solomon Peña, a failed Republican candidate and self-described “MAGA king,” for a spree of shootings at houses in New Mexico shows how Trump’s election denial reverberates. When the ban was levied, “the point was that an election was retrospectively under attack at the moment of crisis,” Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth who has studied election legitimacy, told me. “The danger wasn’t from attacks before as much as afterward. Why would that change?”

I made the same point in my Slate piece the other day.

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