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Protocol | Policy

What could make Facebook reinstate Trump? 2024.

The Facebook Oversight Board's decision won't just influence Trump's post-presidency. It could impact his 2024 candidacy too.

Facebook crack

The Facebook Oversight Board's decisions have global effects.

Image: Eynav Raphael/Protocol

Facebook's decision to suspend President Trump's account has already helped make his post-presidency relatively quiet. But if the Facebook Oversight Board announces this week that the ban will be permanent, the much more pressing question is: What would that do to his 2024 candidacy?

Yeah, we said it.

Like it or not — and more than 81 million Americans almost certainly don't like it — Trump is still both fundraising and speaking like someone who plans to run for president in the next election, and early polls have shown he would handily win his party's nomination if he does. That shred of uncertainty significantly raises the stakes of the board's decision, which it plans to announce Wednesday and which Facebook has pledged to implement.

With this case, the board is not only making an unprecedented call about whether the man who was once president of the United States has access to Facebook's audience of 3 billion people. It's also deciding whether a man who could become president again will ever have access to that audience — a decision that could influence Trump's very ability to run and win.

"The idea of Trump running in 2024 is obviously something they're contemplating," said Kate Klonick, assistant professor at St. John's University Law School, who has studied and written about the Oversight Board since its inception. "But even if he wasn't, I think the board is probably contemplating the effect of their decision on any global leader."

For better and worse, Facebook has played a vital role in every election since the 2008 race between Barack Obama and John McCain. But no candidate has squeezed quite as much out of that platform as Trump, who not only ran an aggressive advertising campaign to help clinch his 2016 victory, but whose posts as president ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. on a near-daily basis. Without access to that audience, any campaign, but particularly a campaign as dependent on Facebook as Trump's, would be substantially diminished.

Strictly speaking, the future prospects of any one political candidate shouldn't matter to the board, said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who has written extensively about the board's decisions. "The rules the board is supposed to be considering shouldn't be affected by the potential political effects of the decision," Douek said, noting that the board is supposed to make its decisions based on how well Facebook lived up to its own rules, its stated values and international human rights standards.

If the board made special accommodations for anyone who might become a political figure in the future, that would effectively preclude Facebook from banning anyone, Douek argued. And yet, she agreed with Klonick that Trump's future may well factor into the board's decision. "The board members are humans. They read the same news you and I do," Douek said. "It would be impossible for them to not have that in the back of their minds, as well."

When Facebook suspended Trump, Republicans had just lost power. Yielding to Democratic calls to ban him from the platform seemed like a politically pragmatic move, unprecedented as it was. But less than six months later, in the face of Trump's continued flirtation with a 2024 bid, that decision looks substantially messier.

The question is whether that messiness will influence the board's decision, and if so, how?

In a world where Trump became the Republican nominee for president again, it could be hard for Facebook to justify a continued suspension. Would the company really be able to say it was living up to its values of free expression if it silenced a major candidate for the American presidency, while giving the other candidates free rein?

On the other hand, after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly accused Trump of inciting a riot to overthrow a Democratic election, it would be impossible for Facebook to claim it prioritizes safety if it welcomed Trump back, effectively handing him the keys to the crime scene just as he was reasserting his political power.

These are questions that Twitter and other platforms that have given Trump the boot will inevitably have to grapple with too. But unlike Facebook, they haven't set up a pseudo-independent oversight board whose decisions they've pledged to honor.

Which presents a third option: The board could issue its decision on Wednesday, and then, depending on how many problems that decision poses for Facebook, Facebook could just change its mind. The board, after all, is a creation of Facebook's own making. It didn't exist two years ago. It will only continue to exist as intended if Facebook decides that it should.

Klonick, for one, believes it's unlikely that Facebook would act unilaterally to undermine the board's authority. "They put so much money and time into this," she said. "For them to pay no attention to the board is not in their interest." More likely, she said, is a situation where Facebook asks the board to revisit their decision if the circumstances under which they made that earlier decision change.

Whatever the board decides Wednesday, it will be playing a hand in history. The decision won't just dictate whether Trump resumes his daily diatribes on Facebook. It will impact his ability to play kingmaker in the 2022 midterms and even run for office in 2024. But more than that, it could have a global ripple effect, setting new precedents for how Facebook treats other world leaders who have repeatedly broken its rules.

"To me the most interesting part of the decision will be the recommendations for what they're going to do with other world leaders," Douek said. "Yes, the American political story is very important. But the global ramifications of this decision are really huge. I hope that doesn't get lost."

Protocol | China

China’s edtech crackdown isn’t what you think. Here’s why.

It's part of an attempt to fix education inequality and address a looming demographic crisis.

In the past decade, China's private tutoring market has expanded rapidly as it's been digitized and bolstered by capital.

Photo: Getty Images

Beijing's strike against the private tutoring and ed tech industry has rattled the market and led observers to try to answer one big question: What is Beijing trying to achieve?

Sweeping policy guidelines issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on July 24 and the State Council now mandate that existing private tutoring companies register as nonprofit organizations. Extracurricular tutoring companies will be banned from going public. Online tutoring agencies will be subject to regulatory approval.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.

It’s soul-destroying and it uses DRM, therefore Peloton is tech

"I mean, the pedals go around if you turn off all the tech, but Peloton isn't selling a pedaling product."

Is this tech? Or is it just a bike with a screen?

Image: Peloton and Protocol

One of the breakout hits from the pandemic, besides Taylor Swift's "Folklore," has been Peloton. With upwards of 5.4 million members as of March and nearly $1.3 billion in revenue that quarter, a lot of people are turning in their gym memberships for a bike or a treadmill and a slick-looking app.

But here at Protocol, it's that slick-looking app, plus all the tech that goes into it, that matters. And that's where things got really heated during our chat this week. Is Peloton tech? Or is it just a bike with a giant tablet on it? Can all bikes be tech with a little elbow grease?

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Karyne Levy

Karyne Levy ( @karynelevy) is the West Coast editor at Protocol. Before joining Protocol, Karyne was a senior producer at Scribd, helping to create the original content program. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, a senior tech editor at Business Insider, and the assistant managing editor at CNET, where she also hosted Rumor Has It for CNET TV. She lives outside San Francisco with her wife, son and lots of pets.

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
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