WASHINGTON – Donald Trump will have to stick to written statements and media appearances to raise money and spread his messages – social media is broadly still not an option, at least for now.
The Facebook Oversight Board’s decision to uphold the site’s ban on Trump deprives the ex-president of a long-range megaphone and an effective fundraising machine, elements that would be central to Trump-backed campaigns in the 2022 congressional races and, perhaps, the 2024 presidential race.
“Should he decide to run again in 2024, it will make it difficult for him to mount a cheap online campaign – as he has done in the past – and make it difficult for him to gain new supporters,” said Jennifer Mercieca, a political communication specialist at Texas A&M University.
Trump and aides indicated they would follow through on plans to start a social media platform but provided few details. They expect Twitter and other social media platforms to follow Facebook’s lead and maintain their bans on Trump as well.
In a written statement after the Facebook decision, Trump called the social media bans “a total disgrace,” and he threatened vengeance on the private companies. He claimed free speech had been taken away from him, because the political left is “afraid of the truth.”
“The truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before,” he said.
Trump’s allies have vowed to make “Big Tech” a major political issue. “These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price,” he said, though he wasn’t specific about what that should be.
Trump can play the victim all he wants, analysts said, but Facebook had little choice but to keep him offline, given his constant violation of its rules.
“He has only himself to blame for actively promoting pernicious lies and conspiracy theories and for being an online bully,” said Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.
Brown said Trump can try to start his own social media company, but “it is unlikely that he would ever be able to garner the attention or generate the reach that he was able to on Facebook.”
Trump aides insisted they can still raise money – his Save American PAC has raised more than $85 million – and his voice will resonate in the 2022 elections and beyond.
A day before the Facebook decision, Trump launched a website on which he posts his written statements, included his comments on the social media prohibitions.
It will be harder for Trump to communicate effectively without social media, which was important in his political rise and presidency.
Trump opponents hailed the Facebook decision, saying the former president continues to lie about his election loss to Joe Biden.
In a written statement Monday, Trump sought to appropriate “The Big Lie,” a term others use to describe his bogus claim that the election was stolen: “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”
Rick Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, tweeted that if Facebook let Trump back on, “he’d be writing TODAY” about false election claims in states such as Arizona, “further undermining confidence in the American electoral process.”
Underscoring GOP divisions over Trump, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, criticized the former president’s statement Monday, tweeting that anyone “spreading THE BIG LIE” is “turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
House Republicans who support Trump seek to oust her from congressional leadership.
Shortly after the Facebook decision, Trump issued a statement attacking Cheney, as well as former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for opposing his election protests.
Though Trump’s Twitter feed was more famous – or infamous – his team made more use of Facebook to raise money and spread messages for the 2016 and 2020 campaigns,
Americans are almost evenly divided over Trump’s ban from social media – and in a familiar pattern, most of the split is along party lines.
“Some 49% of U.S. adults say Trump’s accounts should be permanently banned from social media, while half say they should not be,” according to a Pew Research Center poll.
The majority of Democrats say Trump should be banned from social media; the majority of Republicans say he should be allowed.
Facebook said too many of Trump’s messages were lies and accused him of triggering the insurrection Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol – an incident the Oversight Board cited in upholding the ban.
Mercieca, author of “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump,” said Trump’s “loyal followers” are the one reason he still has “any political power.”
“So,” she said, “the ban makes it difficult for him to maintain that relationship with his followers and makes it difficult for him to redeem the Trump brand.”