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Former President Donald Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook and Instagram more than two years after he was banned for inciting violence when his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Trump’s accounts will be reinstated “in the coming weeks” with new guardrails “to deter repeat offenses,” Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Facebook parent company Meta, said Wednesday.
The “serious risk to public safety” that led Meta to suspend Trump in January 2021 “has receded enough,” Clegg wrote in a blog post. Still, he said, Trump would face “heavier penalties” if he continued to break Meta’s rules, including removal from his posts and even another two-year suspension.
“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying – the good, the bad and the ugly – so they can make informed choices at the ballot box. But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform,” Clegg said.
Trump’s suspension was controversial, as was his reinstatement
Trump’s account suspension was the most high-profile and controversial content moderation decision Meta has ever made. Now her decision to reinstate him pushes the company back amid a contentious debate over the power of tech platforms to determine who gets a voice online.
In a statement on Truth Social, the company Trump helped create and financially support, the former president said, “FACEBOOK, which has lost billions of dollars in value since ‘deplatforming’ your favorite president, me, comes to announce that they were reinstating my account. Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president, or anyone else who doesn’t deserve retaliation!”
Trump’s campaign had formally asked Meta to reinstate him, saying the ban had “significantly distorted and inhibited public discourse.”
Meta’s announcement prompted an immediate backlash from civil rights and advocacy groups.
“[Meta CEO] Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to reinstate Trump’s accounts is a prime example of putting profits before the safety of people,” NAACP Chairman Derrick Johnson said. “It’s pretty amazing how hate can be spewed, conspiracies fueled, and violent insurgency incited on our nation’s Capitol, and Mark Zuckerberg still thinks that’s not enough to get someone off his plate. -shapes.”
Wendy Via, chair of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, warned that Trump’s reinstatement would reverberate around the world.
“Authoritarian politicians everywhere are watching and they will celebrate this decision,” she said. “They have already been inspired by Trump’s successful manipulation of Facebook and his lax enforcement of the rules for the politically powerful. These far-right leaders will simply escalate their use of Facebook to spread misinformation to build their base, helping to political violence and an increase in far-right governments.”
Facebook is a powerful fundraising tool for Trump’s 2024 campaign
It’s unclear if or how Trump will return to posting on Facebook. He did not resume his posts on Twitter and struck a deal with Truth Social to post there first.
Meta’s decision to reinstate Trump lands in a social media landscape that has changed dramatically over the past two years. Facebook is trying to reinvent itself as a “metaverse company” by moving away from its social networking origins. In 2022, the company first announced a decline in revenue and users.
Twitter is in chaos under the ownership of billionaire Elon Musk, who overturned his platform’s ban on Trump in November after quizzing users of the site.
And a slew of alternative social media sites — from Truth Social to Gettr, Parler and Gab — are courting conservatives who have long accused the biggest networks of muzzling their political views.
Still, regaining his Facebook account, which had 35 million followers when he was suspended, is likely to be a boon as Trump seeks the presidency in 2024. While he has used Twitter on the campaign trail and in office for announcing politics, pleasing fans and prodding Enemies, Facebook has been a major driver of its fundraising efforts, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions. (Trump’s campaign page was unaffected by the ban and continued to fundraise through Facebook.)
Trump continues to amplify false claims of voter fraud and other conspiracy theories on social media
Facebook initially suspended Trump indefinitely in the days following the Capitol uprising. The move was criticized by the company’s oversight board — an outside group of legal experts, human rights scholars and former journalists and politicians created and funded by Meta — as vague. In June 2021, Facebook revised the sanction to a two-year ban, said it would only reinstate Trump “if the risk to public safety had diminished,” and pledged to consult with experts before doing so. .
Around this time, society also established new rules for public figures in times of civil unrest and violence. On Wednesday, Clegg said that in addition to removing infringing posts and suspending Trump if he breaks the rules again, Meta may also limit the distribution of content “that contributes to the type of risk that materialized on January 6. “. For example, it could make those posts visible only if a user went directly to Trump’s Facebook page.
Since stepping back from mainstream social media, Trump has used Truth Social as his primary spokesperson. There, he continued to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from him and amplified the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory to his 4.78 million followers.
Advocacy groups Accountable Tech and Media Matters for America estimated last month that more than 350 of Trump’s posts on Truth Social would directly violate Facebook’s rules against QAnon content, election misrepresentation and harassment of marginalized groups.
Democratic lawmakers had urged Meta not to reinstate Trump’s account, arguing that the public safety risk remains. In a December letter to the company, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff of California and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island pointed to Trump’s posts on Truth Social casting doubt on the integrity of the 2022 midterm elections, continuing to deny defeat in 2020, and amplifying accounts promoting QAnon-related conspiracy theories.
“We have every reason to believe he would bring similar conspiratorial rhetoric back to Facebook, given the chance,” they wrote.