I Hate Trump, But I Don't Think He Should Be Permanently Banned From Social Media

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Donald Trump

Facebook’s decision to suspend Donald Trump in January 2021 has been ruled as justified by the company’s Oversight Board meaning the social media site is under no obligation to reinstate the former president. 

The panel did, however, declare that the platform was wrong to impose an indefinite ban, and stated that Facebook has six months to either restore Trump's account, make his suspension permanent, or suspend him for a specific time period.

If Facebook, and Facebook-owned Instagram, chooses to ban Trump permanently from the platform, they will join Twitter and Snapchat who have enjoyed a Trump-free service since January. 

Facebook now finds itself at the center of a complex debate on the right to control speech, a debate that has far-reaching political, social, and moral implications. 

Americans are almost 50/50 on whether or not Trump should be permanently removed from social media. It's also a battle that has been raging on within my own mind since January. 

As someone who despises everything Trump represents and disagreed with most of his policies throughout his presidency, in my eyes, his removal from office and the original social media ban restored some semblance of justice for the damage he’d caused. 

However, it is four months on and I wonder if we’ve given social media too much power to filter public speech. And, if so, can we trust them to always use this power for good? 

Facebook and Twitter were right to ban Trump. At first. 

Let’s be very clear, anyone who spreads misinformation about stolen elections and incites a deathly riot at a government building deserves to have their social media taken away from them, at the very least. 

Facebook and other social media conglomerates are private arenas of discourse with their own rules and regulations. The free speech argument that many lean on this debate doesn’t entirely apply here, I’ll concede on that. 

Trump consistently violated the same social media rules that we all agreed to when creating accounts. So, why shouldn’t they reprimand him? 

However, these platforms are no longer just privately held companies offering a service to a couple of users. Social media is now the dominant source of communication and has the power to control international discourse. 

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Social media platforms are private companies with public power. 

More than one-third of Americans get their news on Facebook alone, excluding someone from this conversation is no small thing. 

Legally, these platforms aren’t obligated to allow unmoderated free speech but the values that underpin this amendment are still worth considering. 

As someone who doesn’t support Trump and who would gladly never hear a word he has to say again, the ban is in my best interests. 

But the wider moral implications of permanently prohibiting someone’s access to public discourse aren’t lost on me. And I’m certainly not vain enough to think that Big Tech wouldn’t turn on me and my liberal views if it was in their interests. 

Make no mistake about Big Tech’s decision to ban Trump in January and Facebook’s recent ruling to uphold his suspension. This was a last-ditch effort to save face after facilitating his tirades for years.

Facebook, in particular, enabled the spreading of misinformation that helped Trump get elected. 

Back in June 2020, while Twitter hid Trump’s messages about sending the military to Black Lives Matter protests in Minnesota, Facebook allowed the president to continue to make the threat against protestors. 

But only after Trump allegedly called Mark Zuckerberg personally to talk about it.

These tech companies know exactly what could have happened to their power if they turned against a sitting president a moment sooner. We all watched Trump threaten to ban TikTok for months.  

Removing Trump from social media in January coincided all too conveniently with a change of administration. Facebook no longer needed to be in Trump’s good books so banned him in order to play favorites with a new president. 

Facebook’s Oversight Board just ruled that the ban was “a vague, standardless penalty," and I tend to agree. Where were these set of rules throughout Trump’s presidency? 

Like I said before, I agree with their decision, but it’s hard to trust these platforms to police speech when they’ve always privileged their own vested interests over the morals they claim to profess. 

Banning hate doesn’t stop his message or his popularity. 

Trump’s actions on social media caused more harm than good. We know that implicitly from the rise of hate speech online dating back to the earliest days of his political career, and explicitly from the Capitol Riots. 

But Trump didn’t create white supremacy and far-right extremism, he just gave them a voice. Trump tapped into a side of American society that many of us would rather have believed no longer existed. 

But for people of color, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants who don’t have the privilege of being able to ignore the deep prejudices ingrained in the US, Trump’s popularity was probably less surprising even if it was still hard to accept.

Pushing these far-right, dangerous perspectives back into dark corners of society doesn’t allow us to address or seek to change these viewpoints. 

Instead, by declaring Trump and his supporters unworthy of their place in mainstream public discourse, we force them to congregate in other, unmoderated spaces. 

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We’ve already seen this with sites like Parler, a far-right dominated social media app, which spiked shortly after Trump’s original ban before it was shut down by service providers. 

Capitol rioters even planned their attack on far-right apps, like TheDonald, meaning we miss out on chances to prevent violence if we shove extremists onto apps with little moderation. 

Now, these people congregate and likely spread their hate speech, unfettered, on Signal or Telegram. 

Soon, Trump will offer his followers a whole communications platform of their own, to challenge the reign of Facebook and Twitter. 

Trust me, I would happily go the rest of my life without having to see a Trump supporter fawn over his poorly worded, often grammatically incorrect, tweets. 

But remaining ignorant to just how many people worship his tyranny returns us back to 2016 and leaves us vulnerable to repeating history.

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We can’t fix what we can’t see.  

Sure, we don’t see the content of far-right extremists on social media, but they don’t see ours either. And we all live not so happily ever after in an echo chamber. 

I think of some of my own internal biases and prejudices that have been loosened up by having access to digital discourse. 

Through viewing content on platforms like Facebook and Twitter have had my opinions challenged as often as I have had them solidified. I wonder where I would be without the opportunity to see endless differing perspectives at the touch of a button. 

There is room for healthy debate online, even on issues that, for many of us, have clear rights and wrongs. Social media can continue to moderate these debates and instate temporary bans as needed if hate speech arises, but a permanent ban offers no one a chance at restitution. 

It may be too late for Trump, but his followers who may boycott social media to protest this ban miss out on key opportunities for reeducation. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.