Reports
2022

The Ongoing Insurrection: How Trump Continues to Weaponize Social Media Post January 6th

New report from Accountable Tech finds that more than 350 posts from Donald Trump on Truth Social are in violation of Facebook’s safety guidelines.

New review by Accountable Tech finds more than 350 posts from Donald Trump on Truth Social are in violation of Facebook’s safety guidelines — the equivalent of nearly two prohibited posts every single day across a five month period.

On January 7, 2021, Facebook (now Meta) suspended Donald Trump’s account because, in CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s own words, Trump used the platform to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” Zuckerberg made clear that the risks of allowing Trump to remain on the platform were “simply too great.”

Facebook’s decision was based on Trump’s clear and repeated violations of Facebook’s Community Standards, his spread of disinformation, and his refusal to veer from his violent rhetoric that endangered the lives of law enforcement and put American democracy at risk before and during the January 6th insurrection.

In the two years since his ban, Trump launched Truth Social, a social media platform where he could operate on his own terms. The result has been an ugly cesspool of disinformation, bullying, harassment, and increasingly violent and threatening behavior. New research analyzing Trump’s account from April 28th through October 8th – one month before the 2022 midterm elections – found that over 350 of his posts constitute clear violations of Facebook’s Community Standards, according to our review. Our review found: 

  • 360 posts that clearly violate Facebook’s Community Standards – the equivalent of over two prohibited posts per day he’s been on the platform.
  • 116 posts amplifying followers and sympathizers of QAnon — the violent, anti-semitic conspiracy movement tied to real-world violence and insurrection, labeled by Facebook as a dangerous and militarized social movement and banned on the platform in October 2020. 
  • 239 posts containing harmful election-related disinformation meant to undermine the integrity of U.S. elections and American democracy; 
  • Repeated violations of Facebook’s standards that prohibit harassment against marginalized groups, including racial minorities and the transgender community.
  • Hundreds of additional posts spreading misinformation that would undoubtedly require fact-checking and labels according to Facebook’s policies, although it is unclear if they would constitute immediate removal. 

While this behavior is unsurprising given Trump’s track record, the consistency, frequency, and severity of his would-be violations in the wake of the January 6 insurrection and ongoing criminal investigations against him provide cause for concern — particularly as Facebook evaluates lifting its two-year ban on his account on January 7, 2023. 

According to Facebook’s own policy for reevaluating restrictions to high-profile accounts, the company will “assess whether the risk to public safety has receded…[and] if we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we’ll extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.” As Trump begins his third campaign for president with an agenda designed to undermine U.S. elections and sow political violence, this research makes clear that Trump’s return to Facebook would only escalate the already-growing public safety risk.  

For the good of U.S. democracy and the safety of its users, Facebook must uphold its own standards and extend its ban of Trump’s account. 

Explore a selection of Trump’s Truth Social posts below, and click here for the full data set. 

Note: this report analyzes Trump’s Truth Social posts from April 28, 2022 (the day Trump began posting on Truth Social in earnest) to October 8, 2022 (one month before the 2022 midterm elections) against Facebook’s Community Standards. Our review found Trump’s posts would be in explicit violation of Facebook’s policies against misinformation, bullying and harassment, hate speech, violence and incitement, and movements and organizations tied to violence. According to Facebook’s policies, such content would likely be removed from its platform. This research does not track the hundreds of additional instances of Trump’s false claims that make up the majority of his posts on Truth Social. Those posts would undoubtedly require fact-checking and labels according to Facebook’s policies, but it is unclear if they would constitute immediate removal, nor is it clear that Facebook would enforce its policies against Trump’s account.

I. TRUMP HAS VIOLATED FACEBOOK SAFETY GUIDELINES WITH AT LEAST 360 TRUTH SOCIAL POSTS – THE EQUIVALENT OF NEARLY TWO PROHIBITED POSTS PER DAY.

Between April 28, 2022 and October 8, 2022, Trump published more than 360 posts in clear violation of Facebook’s Community Standards, for which Facebook’s enforcement mechanism is post removal, according to our review.

  • Of the 360 posts in clear violation of Facebook’s Community Standards that would require removal from the platform, there were 239 violations of Facebook’s policies against misinformation, 19 counts of violence and incitement, 15 counts of bullying and harassment, and 3 counts of hate speech, according to our review.
  • According to Facebook’s strike system, just 5 violations of its Community Standards resulting in content removal warrant a 30-day ban for most users. Trump’s over 350 would-be violations make the case for a much more expansive restriction. Facebook also explicitly outlines the possibility of longer bans for accounts that post content in violation of its dangerous individuals and organization policy.

II. QANON SYMPATHIZERS AND SUPPORTERS FOUND A HOME WITH TRUMP ON TRUTH SOCIAL, AS TRUMP HELPED TO STRENGTHEN THE TERRORIST MOVEMENT.

Trump’s Truth Social is a safe-haven for sympathizers and members of QAnon, the far-right political movement and conspiracy organization labeled by the FBI as a domestic terror threat in 2019. While  Facebook has been removing accounts, pages, and content related to QAnon from its platform since fall 2020, Trump’s Truth Social has done the opposite. As Media Matters for America tracked throughout 2022, Truth Social is a safe space for QAnon, and Trump has welcomed them with open arms.

Trump has reposted, commented, or quoted accounts with ties to QAnon more than 115 times between April 28th and October 8th — amplifying the reach of a violent, anti-semitic conspiracy movement. Central to the beliefs of QAnon supporters is that a violent day of reckoning known as “the Storm” will be the day the Deep State is brought to justice, and Trump has used Truth Social to inflame and magnify those threats, including by amplifying content and accounts that promote QAnon’s rallying cry: “where we go one, we go all” (WWG1WGA).

III. DONALD TRUMP HAS POSTED 239 “TRUTHS” INTENDED TO UNDERMINE CONFIDENCE IN U.S. ELECTIONS.

Trump’s most common would-be violations are related to disinformation undermining the integrity of U.S. elections, with 239 posts violating Facebook’s Community Standards requiring removal. Since April 28, 2022, Trump has published 239 posts like the ones below that directly or indirectly undermine the integrity of U.S. elections, contradicting the well-documented, indisputable evidence that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

IV. BULLYING, HARASSMENT, AND OMINOUS THREATS OF VIOLENCE ARE PAR FOR THE COURSE ON TRUMP’S TRUTH SOCIAL.

Trump regularly uses Truth Social to bully and harass political rivals, journalists, and federal investigators. 15 of Trump’s posts include instances of bullying and harassment, including those in violation of Facebook’s policy against attacks of negative physical descriptions.

Trump has also posted increasingly threatening content with violent undertones that pose a threat to public safety and are meant to lay the groundwork for more hate, division, and extremism to pit Americans against one another.

V. HUNDREDS OF TRUMP’S “TRUTHS” SPREAD HARMFUL CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND BASELESS LIES, EVEN WHEN THEY FALL SHORT OF EXPLICIT VIOLATIONS TO FACEBOOK’S COMMUNITY STANDARDS.

Beyond the 239 posts flagged for spreading election-related disinformation in violation of Facebook’s Community Standards that constitute removal, Trump has shared hundreds more posts spreading other disinformation about easily debunked conspiracy theories and other falsehoods that would require fact-checking and labels according to Facebook’s policies, but likely would not result in  removal. 

Trump has posted lies and conspiracy theories about a wide range of topics, including debunked conspiracy theories of FBI corruption and surveillance, claims that prominent Democratic officials have secret ties to communist regimes, and more.

VI. TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR GREW INCREASINGLY HARMFUL IN THE RUN-UP TO THE MIDTERMS.

While the research above analyzes posts from April 28th to October 8th – one month before the 2022 midterm elections — there was a clear escalation in Trump’s dangerous behavior in the lead-up to the midterms and beyond.

In the weeks leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, Trump continued to insist that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election and shared dog-whistles for violence and revenge. Before polls closed, Trump was already spreading baseless lies meant to undermine the integrity of U.S. elections, and in the aftermath of the elections, Trump used Truth Social to attack election officials and claim the 2022 election results were rigged and illegitimate.

Trump also amplified more QAnon-related content in the pre- and post-election period, yet again promoting QAnon’s rallying cry, “where we go one, we go all” (WWG1WGA) and teasing a violent day of reckoning in support of the domestic terrorist organization.

Trump’s track record on Truth Social makes clear that, if allowed back on Facebook, he would almost certainly continue his brazen effort to undermine U.S. election integrity and sow violence and division among the American people. As Facebook knows all too well, there is a clear and dangerous precedent of Trump’s online actions turning into real-world harm. If he is allowed back on Facebook, the threat against public safety and U.S. democracy would dramatically increase.

As Facebook considers its decision about whether to reinstate his account, this research shows that Trump’s online behavior has only grown more extreme – and his presence on the platform would not only directly harm user safety, but public safety and society writ large. Decision makers at Facebook have a clear choice: uphold the company’s own standards or hand a flamethrower to an arsonist whose behavior has demonstrated time and again that he will abuse his platform to incite violence and endanger the integrity of U.S. democracy.

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