Media 2070: Upholding the Trump Ban Won’t Stop Facebook from Inciting Racist Violence

Media 2070: Upholding the Trump Ban Won’t Stop Facebook from Inciting Racist Violence

May 5, 2021
Contact: Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — Today, the Facebook-funded Oversight Board ruled that the platform giant should continue its suspension of Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The board told Facebook that it must complete its review of its decision to suspend Trump within six months of today’s date.

The former president can no longer use Facebook’s services as a megaphone to spread lies and incite racists. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended indefinitely on Jan. 7, after he continued to post hateful rhetoric and election disinformation in the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

When Facebook forwarded the case to the Oversight Board, the entity had only a narrow authority to review individual pieces of content that the company had removed and then deemed “appealable”. The board has rendered its decision based on limited information provided by the tech company.

Throughout the 2020 election season, the Trump campaign used paid ads to spread myriad racist falsehoods. After mounting pressure from advocates, Facebook finally removed three ads that featured Nazi imagery, false claims about African refugees and assertions that the election was “stolen” — a patently anti-Black trope that is currently being used to justify voter-suppression laws in state legislatures across the country.

Media 2070 co-creator Joseph Torres made the following statement:

“By suspending Trump’s accounts in January, Facebook — perhaps unwittingly — took a small but critical step toward addressing the larger crisis of anti-Black media racism. Now that the Oversight Board has upheld the ban, Facebook must reassess the ways in which its business model continues to endanger Black people and communities.

“Continuing to disregard the health of the Black community and communities of color wouldn’t be out of character for Zuckerberg: He refused to take action in 2020 as Trump posted about ‘looting’ and ‘shooting’ in response to the nationwide racial-justice protests following the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police.

“Like Facebook, traditional news and cable outlets have long used Trump to drive viewership and profitability while amplifying his hate and conspiracy theories into mainstream discourse. The sum total of this dynamic is a media system that drives direct harm against Black people and communities.

“Tech giants like Facebook are not unlike other more traditional media. They seek to appease the powerful in pursuit of their own political and economic agenda. By allowing anti-Black narratives to continue, Facebook is part of a long history of white-controlled media creating the cultural conditions for state violence, discrimination and regressive public policy — which have proved deadly for the Black community.

“Silicon Valley has profited greatly from amplifying racist propaganda, and owes a major debt to Black communities in the long-overdue mass-media transformation these times demand.”