Jan 26, 2023 - Technology

Meta's Trump invite hangs a cloud over Truth Social

Illustration of a thumbs up "like" button resembling President Trump's hand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In reinstating former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, Meta is also pushing Trump toward a moment of decision about the fate of his financially troubled social media app, Truth Social.

Why it matters: Trump raised hundreds of millions of dollars to create Truth Social after he got barred from many social platforms following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Now he must decide between recommitting to his new company or reaping the benefits of getting back on Facebook and Instagram.

Driving the news: Wednesday, after the decision's announcement, Meta staffers met with Trump associates to explain the new policies that are being implemented as Trump's accounts are reactivated, sources told Axios. Trump did not participate, per the sources.

Be smart: During Trump's campaigns and presidency, Twitter served as his megaphone, but Facebook was his cash register.

  • Re-engaging on Facebook and Instagram would give Trump the ability to advertise to his more than 57 million followers across them as he pursues his 2024 presidential campaign.

Yes, but: It would also sends a clear signal to investors in the company that is looking to take Truth Social public that he’s not confident Truth Social can deliver on its promise of reaching 56 million users by 2024.

  • “If Trump elects to start using Facebook and Instagram again it will be a sign of weakness and an admission that his efforts to reach audiences more directly have failed,” a former senior Trump official told Axios.
  • Those platforms "smacked him in the face, and if he comes back crawling, it’s pathetic,” the former official added. “It highlights how useless Truth is. It’s a test of who needs who more.”

By the numbers: Shares in Digital World Acquisition Corp., the blank-check company looking to take Truth Social public, have fallen more than 80% since they peaked last March.

  • Meta confirmed Wednesday that Trump had sent a letter to the company requesting to be reinstated.
  • Trump has been discussing rejoining Twitter with confidants, per NBC. Twitter's new owner Elon Musk reinstated Trump's account there in November after a poll of Musk's followers favored the move, but Trump has not yet used it.
  • Trump's contract with Truth Social, which requires him to post there first, ends in June, according to Rolling Stone.

The big picture: The ban on Trump’s accounts that followed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has forced Big Tech to create and implement new policies for handling speech by public figures that could cause real-world harm.

  • In the past two years, Meta has instituted a slew of new rules that address everything from speech denouncing elections to newsworthy, yet controversial, speech from people in power.
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