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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Donald Trump and his inner circle are anxiously awaiting Facebook's decision about whether to reinstate him to the platform, viewing it as the propellant for an increasingly likely second presidential campaign in 2024.

Why it matters: The decision, due Wednesday morning, could shape the campaign, because Trump's confidants view Facebook as the linchpin to his fundraising and online political strategy.

  • These confidants concede there's a long way to go until 2024 and circumstances could change that dissuade Trump from running. But sources who've spoken to the former president in recent weeks say he's missing being at the center of the political universe and may not be able to resist running again.
  • Trump has publicly held open the possibility of a 2024 campaign and is putting in place an operation to preserve that option. Trump established his own outside groups and has told his supporters to donate to them to help Republicans win.
  • Despite living in political exile in Florida, Trump remains far more popular with Republican voters than GOP lawmakers in Washington.

The big picture: While Trump is known for his connection to Twitter, Facebook has always been central to his campaign strategy. His team used the social network relentlessly in 2016 and 2020 to raise money and energize hardcore supporters.

  • Trump spent around $160 million on Facebook ads in 2020, microtargeting key supporters.
  • Biden spent $117 million on the same effort.

Between the lines: Trump and his aides have publicly minimized the political consequences of him being kicked off these platforms. The former president has claimed his press releases get even more coverage than his tweets, although comparative metrics are difficult.

  • Behind the scenes, though, the reality is they're anxious to be re-platformed — and on Facebook especially because of its superior power as a fundraising tool.
  • "Getting this account back is not only essential for his future political viability," a source close to Trump told Axios, "it would also be an undoing of an unjust act by a social media company that made an ad hoc ruling to de-platform a sitting president."

Go deeper

Liz Cheney refuses to back down on Trump criticism

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican on the House, tweeted Monday that anyone promoting "THE BIG LIE" that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is "turning their back on the rule of law" and "poisoning our democratic system."

Why it matters: Top Republicans are now openly suggesting that Cheney could be removed from her leadership position because of her criticism of Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the GOP. Cheney was one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

May 3, 2021 - Podcasts

Facebook’s big free speech test

Facebook’s Oversight Board, otherwise known as Facebook’s supreme court, could soon come back with a decision on whether or not to reverse Trump’s ban from the platform. The Oversight Board was created in 2019 to review appeals around free speech.

  • Plus, the Fortnite fight with Apple.
  • And, the push to remember the Tulsa Race Massacre 100 years later.
Updated May 6, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the Facebook Oversight Board decision on Trump

On Thursday, May 6, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and media reporter Sara Fischer went behind the scenes of the Facebook Oversight Board's decision to uphold the suspension of former President Trump’s accounts on the platform, featuring Cato Institute vice president John Samples and former Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

John Samples unpacked the equal application of content moderation, the deliberation of the board, and Facebook's response to the decision.

  • How the board considered their decision: "This is not a decision about Donald Trump, but rather a decision about Facebook. Our role at Facebook is to act as an oversight board. That is, we look at how Facebook does its content moderation, how it enforces its rules."
  • On content moderation applying to all users: "There's a recognition in the decision that the same set of rules should apply to ordinary users and leaders... I think there was a strong sense that we don't want special exceptions for powerful people, that Facebook needs to be in a position where they can say no to the powerful."

Helle Thorning-Schmidt discussed free speech, the material that the board took into consideration, and their feelings on the final decision.

  • On what Facebook needs with regards to their content moderation policy: "They need more consistency. I don't think they need more rules...What [the Facebook Oversight Board] wants to get rid of is the lack of transparency and also this arbitrary decision-making."
  • On the role of the Facebook Oversight Board: "We felt it was a bit lazy of Facebook to send [this decision] over to us...We are not here to lift responsibility off Facebook. We're here to be independent, to look at Facebook's own rules, to ask whether they are following their own rules with human rights standards."