Donald Trump got mad at Facebook on Wednesday morning. In a tweet, the president said the social network “was always anti-Trump” before complaining vaguely about fake news and “collusion.” Trump, a 71-year-old former reality TV show host, used to be a fan of Facebook, and, at one point, he even claimed to own Facebook stock. So what happened?
Well, six minutes before Trump sent his tweet, CNN reported about Facebook giving Congress 3,000 apparently Russian-funded ads that appeared on the social network during the election. This evidence supports claims about Russian interference in the 2016 election, an idea Trump hates. And now that Facebook is cooperating with Congress, the president doesn’t seem to care too much for the social network either.
It wasn’t always like this. We’ve known for a while that the president loves to tweet, but once upon a time, Donald Trump was also excited about sharing his hopes and dreams with an audience on Facebook. You can read that excitement in this tweet about his new fan page:
Right away, the real estate baron recognized that this new website could help the Trump brands make more money. That’s surely why he steered his new fans to Ivanka’s page the next year:
Things started to get weird a couple years later as Trump inched towards a career in politics. In one of his regular appearances on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Trump took an interest in Mark Zuckerberg. For whatever reason, he also tagged an obviously fake Mark Zuckerberg account in the tweet:
The next day, Trump questioned the price of Facebook stock—and doubled down on the Zuckerberg pre-nup thing:
This Facebook talk must have attracted some attention because Trump was still on about the company’s stock nearly a week later:
It took Trump another year to insult Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg when she appeared on television to discuss Lean In, her book about the struggles of women in the workplace:
But then, quite puzzlingly, Trump responded to a random dude on Twitter about how he bought Facebook cheap. So apparently he was happy about his alleged investment in the company he allegedly couldn’t invest in earlier?
Then, in 2015, less than a month before announcing his candidacy for president in the lobby of Trump Tower, the Donald had “a great time” visiting Facebook’s New York office, even signing their wall and answering some questions from fans on video.
This is all pretty normal stuff for someone who’s planning to run for office. What’s unusual is that around the time he announced his candidacy, a lot of Trump’s 1.7 million fans on Facebook came from developing countries. Jennings Brown, who’s now a senior editor at Gizmodo, reported in June 2015:
Only 42 percent of Trump’s 1,694,561 followers on Facebook are American, while most come from developing nations like the Philippines, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Colombia …
What Trump does have is a large fan base in countries that researchers have deemed hubs for Facebook fraud. Specifically, they are home to “like farms”—services through which companies or individuals can buy Facebook likes using zombie accounts run by people who might be paid as little as $120 a year.
Weird! Fake followers or not, we can only assume that Donald Trump loved having a network with whom he could share his controversial world view and, in return, receive a tremendous response. He actually bragged about this very thing seven months into his campaign:
By March 2016, his fanbase was exploding as he marched around the United States promising to build a wall that will keep out the Mexican “rapists” and institute a “Muslim ban.” This is also around the time that the “Crooked Hillary” remarks started heating up, and Trump was using Facebook to spread the word:
But it didn’t take long until Trump changed his mind and decided that Facebook was part of the problem:
Trump would, of course, win the election a week later. And when the president-elect held a summit with tech leaders at Trump Tower in December, Sheryl Sandberg got prime seating alongside Mike Pence, Tim Cook, and Peter Thiel, a key Trump backer and a fellow member of the Facebook board.
But soon after Trump took office in January 2017, the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election began. And it became apparent that the spread of fake news on Facebook could have misled the electorate. Trump has not enjoyed this:
Which brings us back to today. Let’s just revisit that tweet one more time:
Don’t worry, brave reader. Trump probably isn’t going to delete his Facebook page. With over 22.6 million fans, the president’s personal page is one of the most popular in the world.
Donald Trump may hate Facebook, the company that’s helping Congress investigate his rise to power. And Donald Trump may hate Facebook, the social network that didn’t do enough to support him in last year’s election. Donald Trump does, however, love Facebook, the place where his fans can gather and express their adoration for him. Donald Trump loves to be popular online.
Update 5:50pm - Mark Zuckerberg has responded to Trump’s tweet: