Meta has announced that they plan to reinstate the Facebook and Instagram accounts of former president Donald Trump. The news will undoubtedly lead to a breathless news cycle and renewed debate about large tech platforms’ speech and moderation policies. Digital rights group Fight for the Future issued the following statement, which can be attributed to the group’s director, Evan Greer (she/her):
“Discussions about online content moderation and what policies are needed to ensure human rights, free expression and safety are some of the most important and consequential societal debates in human history. When we center these debates about specific moderation decisions, especially ones involving high profile, wealthy, politically powerful individuals like Donald Trump, we are utterly missing the point.
Donald Trump doesn’t need social media to spread his hateful ideas. He has access to the mainstream press, who religiously cover his every move. And he can afford to hire public relations firms, pay for advertising, and leverage his notoriety and influence to gain attention, something he has shown himself to be uniquely good at.
The Donald Trumps of the world are not the people most impacted by deplatforming, censorship, and overreaching moderation. It is the most marginalized who are the most censored online. Arab and Muslim folks living outside the US routinely have their posts erroneously censored and their accounts unjustly banned by hamfisted “anti-terrorism” filters used by most of the largest platforms. LGBTQ content creators, sex workers, and sexual health educators face constant deplatforming, debanking, and demonetization. Abortion rights organizations consistently encounter obstacles placing online ads, and have seen an uptick in unjust account suspensions and post removals in the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Once again, Trump has made himself a huge distraction. By allowing the former president to remain the center of attention in world-changing debates about content regulation, free speech, and the harms of Big Tech, we’re helping him accomplish his vile goals of silencing and oppressing the most vulnerable. We need to move past circular discussions over specific moderation decisions impacting high profile elites, and instead focus on putting in place transformative policies based in human rights, and regulations that strike at the root of Big Tech giants’ harm. Passing a privacy law would do way more to slow the viral spread of hateful content and disinformation than keeping Trump off of any specific platform. Enacting antitrust reforms would do far more to protect our democracy from Trump and his ilk than banning any one account.
Let’s refuse to let Trump derail the conversations we need to have. Let’s keep fighting for policies that lead not just to the type of Internet we want to have, but the type of world we want to live in: a world where everyone has a voice, and decisions that impact our lives are made transparently and democratically, rather than in closed door corporate meetings.”