President Donald Trump returns to the White House. File picture: Washington Post/Jabin Botsford
President Donald Trump returns to the White House. File picture: Washington Post/Jabin Botsford

Trump Facebook and Twitter ban: This is how his messages could still get through

By The Washington Post Time of article published May 7, 2021

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By Rachel Lerman

An account popped up on Twitter this week, noting in its bio it would post "on behalf of the 45th POTUS." Within hours, #RemoveTrumpJack was trending, calling on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take action.

A day later, Twitter took down the account - which was not run by former president Donald Trump - saying it violated the company's policies about banned users.

It's the latest skirmish in an all-out war between social media giants and Trump, who was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube following comments they said could incite violence in early January as rioters attacked the Capitol.

On Wednesday, Facebook dealt a blow to the former president's efforts to get back on social media, when its Oversight Board determined that Trump would not be allowed back on the site, at least not immediately. It sent the issue back to the company for further review. Trump has been banned from YouTube and Facebook indefinitely and Twitter permanently since early January.

Now those companies are also figuring out where to draw the line on other Trump-created content. Already, they played whack-a-mole in the days following his banning to temporarily suspend other accounts sharing Trump's words. First, Twitter temporarily suspended the @POTUS account. Later, it suspended Trump's campaign account @TeamTrump when it appeared to post tweets in Trump's words shortly after his main account was suspended.

Without the power of his social media megaphone, Trump is turning to a Plan B: a new bare-bones website he launched Tuesday where he can post his thoughts, complaints, political endorsements and fundraising requests.

He recently told Fox News Channel he had also realized the power of the news release.

"It's better than Twitter, much more elegant than Twitter," he said. "And Twitter now is very boring."

Still, the posts on his new site and even his news releases need social media sharing to spread around and reach a broader audience, particularly now that his platform as former president has diminished.

Facebook is removing accounts that say they are representing the new Trump website. It has already removed at least two from Facebook and Instagram, said spokesperson Andy Stone.

Facebook has not said what it will do when users share Trump's statements on the site. It removed a video interview of Trump in March after daughter-in-law Lara Trump posted it, saying content "in the voice of President Trump" was not allowed.

A quick search brought up several posts sharing Trump's website statements.

Twitter has said it will suspend all accounts that are created with the sole purpose of sharing the former president's statements, regardless of who made them. In a statement Thursday, spokesperson Trenton Kennedy said, "As stated in our ban evasion policy, we'll take enforcement action on accounts whose apparent intent is to replace or promote content affiliated with a suspended account."

Essentially, Twitter will not allow Trump's mouthpiece to be replaced on the site.

But the social media company will still allow other accounts, ones that also tweet in their own words, to share Trump's posts. Though the policy will severely limit Trump's voice on social media, it still provides an indirect way for the former president to spread his messages on mainstream sites.

Social media sites have faced criticism for years that they aren't doing enough to police misinformation. Facebook had created a "newsworthiness" exception to leave up some violative posts if they were from public figures. Facebook says it has rarely used the exception, but former employees told The Washington Post that conversations about "newsworthiness" have shaped the company's approach to content from world leaders.

Social media, and particularly Twitter, became a favorite way for Trump to speak directly to supporters. He had more than 88 million followers when he was banned from the site, and frequently posted multiple times a day, letting people in on his thought processes.

His new website is more static. Only Trump's posts are allowed and no users can comment directly or start conversation. The posts each have a button for people to share them to Facebook or Twitter.

Some accounts have started sharing Trump's posts on the mainstream sites, but the push does not seem to be very big or coordinated in the early days of his website.

Still, his new website has prompted the big social media companies to address how they will once again deal with Trump's posts.

Twitter suspended the account Wednesday night called @DJTDesk, apparently named for the former president's website, after it became clear the account planned to repost Trump's statements.

News organizations and right-leaning pundits have sometimes shared Trump's posts and news releases on Twitter. But it's unclear if accounts occasional re-sharing his messages will allow the former president's statements to spread far and wide on social media. It doesn't replace the direct line of communication Trump had with his own accounts, where he regularly tweeted himself.

A report from Recode this week shows that mentions of Trump on Twitter have fallen dramatically since the president was banned from social media and left office.

Trump, who has repeatedly called to penalize mainstream tech companies, posted an indictment of Big Tech on his website this week, following a decision to keep him banned from Facebook.

"It's clear these anti-Free Speech Big Tech companies need to be regulated, and it's time for new social media platforms," Trump adviser Jason Miller said in an email Thursday.

Miller said the restrictions wouldn't make messaging more difficult.

"It'll simply expedite the creation of new platforms that will reduce market share for these liberal Big Tech companies," he said.

Twitter has taken a harder line than Facebook's "indefinite" stance, saying that Trump will not be allowed back on the site, even if he runs for office again. Facebook has not said if it will do what the board recommended and determine a time length for Trump's suspension in the next six months.

The Washington Post

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