Without the oxygen provided to him by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which de-platformed Trump days after the January 6 riot, Trump won’t be able to continue to poison the body politic with lies about the 2020 election (among other things).
This is a deep misreading of just how far Trump — or, perhaps more accurately, Trumpism — has stuck its roots into Facebook. In short: You can ban Trump. But you can’t stop the march of Trumpism.
New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose has proven that reality over these last many months via a Twitter handle he started called “@Facebookstop10” that publishes the “sources of the 10 top-performing link posts by US Facebook pages every day, ranked by total interactions.”
Every day, without fail, the top 10 is dominated by right-wing Trump voices. Here’s Tuesday, for example:
1. Ben Shapiro
2. Ben Shapiro
3. Ben Shapiro
4. Fox News
6. Dan Bongino
7. Sean Hannity
8. Dan Bongino
9. Fox News
10. The Rachel Maddow Show
All of those names will be familiar to you with the possible exception of ForAmerica, which The Atlantic described in 2014 as “The Right Wing’s Facebook Army.”
And a look back through the last 10 days (or last 100 days) will produce results remarkably similar to Tuesday’s top 10. The sources of the most shared links — day in and day out — on Facebook tend to have a very strongly pro-Trump tinge to them.
“Pro-Trump political influencers have spent years building a well-oiled media machine that swarms around every major news story, creating a torrent of viral commentary that reliably drowns out both the mainstream media and the liberal opposition.
“The result is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality. Inside the right-wing Facebook bubble, President Trump’s response to Covid-19 has been strong and effective, Joe Biden is barely capable of forming sentences, and Black Lives Matter is a dangerous group of violent looters.”
Despite Trump’s defeat in November 2020, nothing has changed from what Roose wrote back then. Just as Trump leaving the White House has done nothing to diminish the power he and his movement retain within the Republican Party — witness the push to remove Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney as a party leader — his 2020 loss has had no negative impact on the power of pro-Trump “news sources” on Facebook.
If anything, the power of those sources has increased as Trump — and his Republican accomplices in Congress — has pushed the Big Lie that the election was fraudulent and stolen from him. (There is zero objective evidence to back up that claim.)
So, yes, Trump is (still) gone from Facebook — at least for now. But the roots of Trumpism have spread far and wide on the platform and will continue to grow and metastasize, with or without the former president playing an active role on the social media platform.