Opinion|Good Riddance, Donald Trump?
May 5, 2021
By Kara Swisher
Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing Opinion writer.
It never occurred to me that a Facebook-appointed panel could avoid a clear decision about Donald Trump’s heinous online behavior. But that is what it’s done.
Over the next days, we will hear a lot of huffing and puffing about the Oversight Board’s decision to uphold a ban of the former president from Facebook.
That is appropriate since the question of how to treat speech on social media platforms is a major and perhaps impossible one to resolve — especially when it comes to important political figures who relish in being divisive. Which is why the external board decided to punt the fetid Trump situation back to the Facebook leadership to decide within six months whether to make the suspension permanent.
It’s kind of perfect, actually, since it forces everyone’s hand — from the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to our limp legislators in Congress.
[Kara Swisher discussed this column and more during a Twitter Live chat. You can watch it here.]
In general, I have considered the case of Mr. Trump to be much less complex than people seem to think. And it has been made to appear highly complicated by big tech companies like Facebook because they want to exhaust us all in a noisy and intractable debate.
Mr. Trump should be seen as an outlier — a lone, longtime rule breaker who was coddled and protected on social media platforms until he wandered into seditious territory. He’s an unrepentant gamer of Facebook’s badly enforced rules who will never change. He got away with it for years and spread myriad self-serving lies far and wide.
So why should Mr. Trump stop now?
One way to answer that would be to ask why so many Republicans believe the Big Lie that President Biden was not elected fairly. Or why do so many of the same people resist Covid-19 vaccinations?
It’s all because of the inexhaustible Trump digital army, which is both organized and scattered, and has been enabled by social media companies.
Reddit’s chief executive, Steve Huffman, called the behavior of these pro-Trump forces “malicious compliance” — which means totally noncompliant — in an interview with me early this year. And that’s the reason he finally and correctly threw some Trumpets off his platform.
For a long time, Reddit was one of the most vehement defenders of any and all speech on tech platforms. That is, until it was clear that Reddit was being played for an idiot by trolls.