The House Oversight and Accountability Committee should hold a hearing focused on the role of misinformation in destabilizing democracies—including Trump’s role in spreading misinformation and fomenting violence—rather than focusing on right-wing tropes, according to a letter CREW sent to the committee. While the committee has tech executives appearing before them, the committee has the opportunity to interrogate recent decisions by social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to reinstate Trump’s accounts after initially banning him for spreading misinformation and inciting an insurrection.
In the two days following the insurrection, Mark Zuckerberg stated that Trump had used Facebook “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” and argued that the “risks” of allowing Trump to use their platform were simply too great. Similarly, Twitter suspended Trump, concluding that the “risk of further incitement of violence” was too great.
Even after the bans from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Trump continued to promote misleading narratives on his new social media platform, Truth Social, and has refused to take responsibility for his role in inciting the insurrection. Just last week Trump “reTruthed” a post on Truth Social encouraging physical violence in the event that he is disqualified from office. The original tweet asserted that “people…will physically fight for him this time…we Are Locked and LOADED.” The potential for violence coming from activity like this on social media platforms is unmistakable.
A recent DHS advisory on terrorism threats to the U.S. warned that “widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud” contributed to a “heightened threat environment” across the country. Yet, as Trump makes another run for president in 2024, these platforms have reinstated his accounts, seemingly without considering the risks that he and his misinformation pose for our democracy.
As three former Twitter executives prepare to appear before the Oversight Committee, CREW urges the committee to probe how social media platforms plan to protect their sites from misinformation and invocations of violence and why Donald Trump was allowed to return to these platforms in the first place. Rather than give attention to partisan tropes, the committee should focus its oversight agenda on how it can rebuild the guardrails of our democracy and ensure that social media platforms do not become agents of violence.