The internet has been a bit quiet lately. Or, more specifically, it’s been quiet since the days after the Capitol riot, when Twitter, Facebook, and a string of other social-media companies banned Donald Trump from their platforms for his role in egging on the violence in Washington, D.C. And now the Facebook oversight board has ensured that social media will remain peaceful for at least a little while longer: The panel, asked by Facebook to review the platform’s decision to indefinitely suspend the former president, has upheld the ban in the short term, but has required Facebook to make a final decision on Trump’s account within six months.
Trump’s banishment created a silence where there had once been a foghorn. Even before the president left office, the sudden peace was notable: As the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time, during the last days of his presidency, The Washington Post compared Trump’s quiet during the proceedings with the more than 600 times he had tweeted during his 2019 impeachment. And the silence has continued. “Trump,” David A. Graham wrote in The Atlantic, “has remained unexpectedly peripheral since leaving office.” On Twitter, the New York Times opinion writer Farhad Manjoo commented on Trump’s absence from his formerly favorite website: “He used to be inescapable”—but now he’s “nowhere.”
When Trump was first booted from social media, experts and journalists alike characterized his exit from the online conversation as “deplatforming.” Until recently, the term was a descriptor for the practice, primarily employed by student activists, of refusing to provide speaking engagements to or objecting to invitations to visit campus for speakers with offensive, in many cases far-right political beliefs. In recent years, though, it’s entered into the popular discourse as a catchall for the practice of refusing to grant space to a person for sharing a view considered unacceptable or dangerous, most prominently when a social-media company gives a problem user the boot. [Continue reading…]