Nine minutes after Meta announced that it will allow Donald Trump back on its platforms, the disgraced ex-president was on his own Truth Social app posting about supposed election fraud in the 2020 election.
It’s nothing unusual for Trump. A research report published earlier this month by the watchdog group Accountable Tech found that Trump had written more than 200 posts containing “harmful election-related disinformation” since he was banished from Meta’s platforms.
But now, once again, Trump is Meta’s problem. The social media giant announced on Wednesday, unsurprisingly, that Trump will be permitted back on Facebook and Instagram, setting the stage for some thorny content moderation calls in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
And those content moderation calls are likely to be contentious.
For instance, a Meta spokesperson said Trump will be permitted to attack the results of the 2020 election without facing consequences from the company. However, the spokesperson said, if Trump were to cast doubt on an upcoming election — like, the 2024 presidential race — the social giant will take action. In those cases, Meta might limit the distribution of the violative post or restrict access to advertising tools.
But attacks on the 2020 election will only serve to cast doubt on the integrity of future elections. And Meta will undoubtedly face scrutiny for its high-stakes decisions on the issue as Trump inevitably approaches the line.
In September, former President Donald J. Trump went on Truth Social, his social network, and shared an image of himself wearing a lapel pin in the form of the letter Q, along with a phrase closely associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement: “The storm is coming.”
In doing so, Mr. Trump ensured that the message — first posted by a QAnon-aligned account — would be hugely amplified, visible to his more than four million followers. He was also delivering what amounted to an unmistakable endorsement of the movement, which falsely and violently claims that leading Democrats are baby-eating devil worshipers.
Even as the parent company of Facebook and Instagram announced this past week that Mr. Trump would be reinstated — a move that followed the lifting of his ban from Twitter, though he has not yet returned — there is no sign that he has curtailed his behavior or stopped spreading the kinds of messages that got him exiled in the first place.
In fact, two years after he was banished from most mainstream social media sites for his role in inciting the Capitol riot, his online presence has grown only more extreme — even if it is far less visible to most Americans, who never use the relatively obscure platforms where he has been posting at a sometimes astonishing clip.
Rifts in the GOP between those who support Donald Trump’s false 2020 election fraud claims and those who want the party to move on from the former president have resurfaced in party leadership races in key states, with each side blaming the other for disappointing midterm results.
In Arizona, the state Republican party—which for years has been at odds with former GOP Gov. Doug Ducey and more establishment Republicans—on Saturday elected Jeff DeWit as party chairman.
A former state treasurer, Mr. DeWit worked on both of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaigns and served in the Trump administration. Mr. Trump backed his bid, according to several people with knowledge. Kari Lake, the Trump-aligned failed GOP candidate for governor in 2022 also supported him. He is set to appear at a rally with Ms. Lake on Sunday.
Mr. DeWit had support of many of the party’s activists, but he also made an effort to win over some more traditional Republicans. He has said he would focus on voter registration and fundraising, according to Jonathan Lines, a former state party chairman.
Some Arizona Republicans say they don’t see room for themselves in a party apparatus dominated by supporters of Mr. Trump and his election-fraud claims. And they point to widespread defeat for Republican statewide candidates in a state that the GOP long dominated.
“There’s a new conductor but the orchestra is still out of tune,” said Thomas Galvin, a Republican member of the GOP-led Maricopa Board of Supervisors, which runs elections in the state’s largest county. The board has been criticized from other Republicans for its handling of the past two election cycles when Democrats won. “There’s nothing to suggest that the new party chair will have the guts to state the harsh truth in order for the party to get back to its winning ways.”
Mr. DeWit didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Republican lawmakers who have spread election conspiracy theories and falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential outcome was rigged are overseeing legislative committees charged with setting election policy in two major political battleground states.
Divided government in Pennsylvania and Arizona means that any voting restrictions those GOP legislators propose is likely to fail. Even so, the high-profile appointments give the lawmakers a platform to cast further doubt on the integrity of elections in states that will be pivotal in selecting the next president in 2024.
Awarding such plum positions to lawmakers who have repeated conspiracies and spread misinformation cuts against more than two years of evidence showing there were no widespread problems or fraud in the last presidential election. It also would appear to run counter to the message delivered in the November midterm elections, when voters rejected election-denying candidates running for top offices in presidential battleground states.
The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request.
The request, which came from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, is the clearest sign to date that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.
The Justice Department request also asked that the FEC provide any relevant documents to the Justice Department, according to the knowledgeable people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Zach Montellaro for Politico.