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 | Fintech

How European fintech startup N26 is preparing for U.S. regulations

"There's a lot more scrutiny being placed on fintech. We are definitely mindful of it."

In an interview with Protocol, Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, discussed the company's approach to regulations in the U.S.

Photo: N26

N26's monster $900 million funding round announced Monday underlined the German startup's momentum in the digital banking market.

Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, said the funding will be used for expansion and also to improve "our core offering to make this the most reliable bank that our customers can trust," she told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Apple’s new MacBooks are the future — and the past

After years of reinventing the wheel, Apple's back to just building really good ones.

Apple brought back the ports.

Photo: Apple

The 2015 Pro was, by most accounts, one of the best laptops Apple ever made. It was fast and functional, and it had a great screen, a MagSafe charger, plenty of ports, a great keyboard and solid battery life. If you walked around practically any office in Silicon Valley, you'd see Pros everywhere.

Many of those users have been holding on to their increasingly old and dusty 2015 Pros, too, because right about when that computer came out was when Apple seemed to lose its way in the laptop market. It released the 12-inch MacBook, an incredibly thin and light computer that made a bunch of changes — a new keyboard and trackpad design chief among them — that eventually made their way around the rest of the MacBook lineup. Then came the Touch Bar, Apple's attempt to build an entirely new user interface into a laptop.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Imagine a company where there are no meetings — just time for deep, focused work punctuated by short conversations on Slack and project updates on Trello.

Now imagine a company where the no-meeting ethos is so ingrained that it's possible to work there for 10 years without ever speaking face-to-face with a single coworker, and for your boss to not even recognize the sound of your voice.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

#AppleToo activist says Apple fired her for deleting apps from her devices

Janneke Parrish says she was dismissed after deleting Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive from her work devices during an investigation inside the company.

The Apple Too movement is trying to organize Apple workers into a collective movement.
Photo: Bloomberg via Getty

Unlike most other companies, Apple asks that its employees use their work phones like personal ones — and for five years, Apple program manager Janneke Parrish did as she was told. But last week, when Apple asked Parrish for her devices in an internal investigation, she was afraid Apple would see her personal and private information. She disobeyed orders and deleted apps like Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive. Then Apple fired her.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories