Anyone who thinks Donald Trump’s rants have faded from social media since he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram early this year is wrong. His following and sympathetic media ensure that his most peppered statements still receive wide distribution on social networks.
This is evident from research by The New York Times. The journalists first charted the number of likes and retweets of nearly 1,600 messages the then president posted on social media between September 1 and January 8. From that last date, he was denied access to the three platforms because of his encouragement from the mob that had stormed the Capitol.
The researchers then compared the outcome of that count with what happened to the statements that Trump was then forced to only share on his own blog, in official statements, in emails and on the website with which he collects campaign money. Those posts weren’t nearly as numerous as his tweets. But they often turn out to be massively distributed mainly on social media, by popular right-wing twitterers and news organizations such as Fox News and Breitbart News, which support Trump.
Detour through Trump’s supporters
All in all, the distribution of Trump’s statements, and the likes and retweets of them, decreased very sharply. But the fiercest statements got at least as many likes and retweets through the detour from his followers as when he could still tweet himself. All together, for example, his criticism of President Biden’s migration policy, with the ending “Our country is being destroyed!”, was shared and liked no less than 661,000 times.
Also read: Facebook was allowed to ban Trump, but also gets a lot of kicks
It is remarkable that opponents of the ex-president sometimes help to spread his message – namely when Trump criticizes party members. For example, his criticism of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell was enthusiastically shared and liked not only by Trump fans, but also by left-wing social media users and news organizations who rejoiced at the divisions in the Republican camp.
Only on one theme did Trump’s sound remain muted. His persistent claims about the alleged large-scale electoral fraud, which have never been proven, do not get very far. The ten most popular tweets about this received 22.1 million likes and retweets when he was still allowed to tweet himself. With the ten most popular claims about this since his ban, his followers garnered no more than 1.3 million likes and retweets. This shows the effect of the policy of the social media platforms to prevent the spread of fake news. It also shows, thus The New York Times, the “enormous power” of the social media companies in limiting political misinformation.
On Friday it was announced that Trump’s suspension from Facebook and Instagram will last at least until January 2023. Twitter has permanently banned him.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of June 10, 2021