What Happened When Trump Was Banned on Social Media

When Facebook and Twitter barred Donald J. Trump from their platforms after the Capitol riot in January, he lost direct access to his most powerful megaphones. On Friday, Facebook said the former president would not be allowed back on its service until at least January 2023, citing a risk to public safety.

Since his ban and President Biden’s inauguration, he has posted statements online far less often. But some of his statements have traveled just as far and wide on social networks.

The reach of Trump’s words before and after his ban from social media
Each circle 

 represents a statement made by Mr. Trump. The size of a circle is determined by the number of likes and shares the statement generated across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook on posts quoting it, including on Mr. Trump's own account before he was banned.

Tallies of likes and shares come from the 100 most highly liked and shared posts on Facebook and Instagram for each Trump statement. (In most cases, there were fewer than 100 posts quoting each statement.) On Twitter, any posts quoting a given Trump statement that had at least 10 retweets were included.

The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s nearly 1,600 social media posts from Sept. 1 to Jan. 8, the day Mr. Trump was banned from the platforms. We then tracked the social media engagement with the dozens of written statements he made on his personal website, campaign fund-raising site and in email blasts from Jan. 9 until May 5, which was the day that the Facebook Oversight Board, which reviews some content decisions by the company, said that the company acted appropriately in kicking him off the service.

Before the ban, the social media post with the median engagement generated 272,000 likes and shares. After the ban, that dropped to 36,000 likes and shares. Yet 11 of his 89 statements after the ban attracted as many likes or shares as the median post before the ban, if not more.

How does that happen?

Mr. Trump had long been his own best promoter on social media. The vast majority of people on Twitter and Facebook interacted directly with Mr. Trump’s posts, either liking or sharing them, The Times analysis found.

But after the ban, other popular social media accounts often picked up his messages and posted them themselves. (Last week, Mr. Trump shut down his blog, one of the places he made statements.)

On Oct. 8, Mr. Trump tweeted that the then-Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his running mate, Kamala Harris, lied “constantly.” The post was liked and shared 501,000 times on Facebook and Twitter.

On March 21, Mr. Trump published a statement on his website saying that his administration had handed over “the most secure border in history.” He went on to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis. “Our Country is being destroyed!” Mr. Trump said. The statement was liked and shared more than 661,000 times.

Comparing how Trump statements spread before and after the ban
Posts quoting or originating each Trump statement, sized by total number of likes and shares


The Global Disinformation Index, a nonpartisan nonprofit that studies disinformation, examined the political leanings of the top accounts sharing Mr. Trump’s statements online after he was barred from Facebook and Twitter. The group classified hundreds of accounts as either left- or right-leaning, or a mix of the two, relying on standards that it established through its work on disinformation risk ratings for news sites and other online media.

One thing that became immediately clear: Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters continue to spread his message — doing the work that he had been unable to do himself.

The top sharers of the March post included the right-wing publication Breitbart News (159,500 likes and shares), a Facebook page called “President Donald Trump Fan Club” (48,200 likes), Fox News (42,000 likes), and Jenna Ellis (36,700 likes), a lawyer who made regular television appearances as Mr. Trump’s proxy to trumpet his debunked claims of a rigged election.

But when Mr. Trump criticizes conservatives, his remarks sometimes get picked up by both the left and right.

On Feb. 16, for instance, Mr. Trump derided Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, because of Mr. McConnell’s unwillingness to back Mr. Trump’s attempts to undermine the 2020 election.


The top sharers on the right, according to the Global Disinformation Index analysis, included “Fox & Friends,” the cable news show, and the right-leaning publication Washington Examiner. On the left, the top sharers included the popular Facebook page Stand With Mueller and the CNN journalist Jim Acosta.

Many on the right shared the post while agreeing with it, while partisan pages on the left made fun of the intraparty fight. In total, the statement was shared and liked more than 345,000 times on Facebook and Twitter.

One topic from Mr. Trump that has not spread far: claims of widespread election fraud.

The Times analysis looked at the 10 most popular posts with election misinformation — judged by likes and shares — from Mr. Trump before the social media bans, and compared them with his 10 most popular written statements containing election misinformation after the ban. All the posts included falsehoods about the election -- that the process had been “rigged,” for instance, or that there had been extensive voter fraud.

Before the ban, Mr. Trump’s posts garnered 22.1 million likes and shares; after the ban, his posts earned 1.3 million likes and shares across Twitter and Facebook.

Disinformation researchers say the difference points to the enormous power the social media companies have in curbing political misinformation, if they choose to wield it. Facebook and Twitter curb the spread of false statements about the November election, though Twitter has loosened its enforcement since March to dedicate more resources to fact-checking in other parts of the world.

“As the Trump case shows, deplatforming doesn’t ‘solve’ disinformation, but it does disrupt harmful networks and blunt the influence of harmful individuals,” said Emerson Brooking, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which studies disinformation.

Mr. Trump’s statements that got the most engagement after his ban included topics like his commentary on the culture wars (as when he urged his followers to boycott baseball), praise for particular individuals (like for the radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently died) and attacks on President Biden’s policies on issues like the border crisis and taxes.

Now that Mr. Trump has lost both the Oval Office and his Twitter account, he has become a kind of digital leader-in-exile, Mr. Brooking said.

Mr. Trump’s supporters can refer to his statements to buttress their arguments, Mr. Brooking said, “but he’s not directly driving the agenda in the way he once was.”
分享 2021-06-09

2 个评论

Legally fine. But it may be a good reason to think about antitrust law.