Facebook, our delayed gratification King, cannot make a single decision.
The choices laid out in front of Facebook were seemingly simple:
Boot former President Donald Trump off the platform forever.
Let Trump stay on the platform forever.
Suspend Trump, and let him return at a later date.
Instead, Facebook chose option 4. Check in later.
It’s a move that makes little impact besides placing Trump in a waiting room, making Facebook look weak, and leaving the rest of us doomed to repeat this news cycle once again.
The company announced on Friday that while Trump is currently blocked from using the platform, it will reconsider welcoming him back on Jan. 7, 2023, just in time for Trump to formally announce a 2024 campaign.
“At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” a blog post announcing the news read. “We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”
But the post doesn’t describe why they chose two years for the ban, which feels arbitrary at best, or what kind of criteria would have to be met for letting the former President back on the platform. We know that experts will assess the risk of letting him return, but we don’t know who those experts will be.
This isn’t the first time Facebook chose to not make a decision about de-platforming Trump. Facebook first decided to suspend the former president in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and sent the final decision over to their so-called Oversight Board. Last month, the Oversight Board upheld the platforms original decision to suspend the president but said Facebook would have to review the decision and respond in a way that was clearer than an open-ended suspension. This was their attempt at doing that.
No matter their decision, Facebook risks making enemies of either Trump and his supporters, or everyone else. But would it not be worth the risk of pissing off some people by ripping off the bandaid now? They might not have any option that leaves everyone happy, but this decision reeks of a company acting out of fear rather than any genuine concern for their users. After all, he was originally suspended from the platform after he encouraged and praised the people who engaged in the Capitol riots that left five people dead.
Instead of making a decision, Facebook has all but guaranteed this will be a repeat news cycle, drawing attention to the weak decision-making of the platform. In two years, we’re all just going to have to do this all over again, but this time with even more spice, as we’ll be entangled in another presidential campaign for Trump.
Contrast that with our other favorite internet cesspool, Twitter. The platform permanently suspended Trump’s account following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol building. That was a firm, direct breakup — albeit one that happened all too late. Facebook’s decision today, though, leaves us feeling like we’re on a break. I do not like it.
Please, Facebook, I’m begging you: Make a decision.