“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad, and the ugly — so they can make informed decisions at the ballot box,” Clegg wrote. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t limits to what people can say on our platform.”
The announcement follows a formal request from an attorney for Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign to allow him to return to the platform, arguing that a two-year ban following the Jan. 6 attack “dramatically distorted and inhibited public discourse.” ”
Meta’s reinstatement – coupled with Twitter’s decision in November to lift a permanent ban on Trump – means the former president has another chance to grab the spotlight across two of the top social media channels ahead of a presidential election in which he is running -Take back platforms of the world is a declared candidate.
The reintegration into Facebook means Trump can resume fundraising for his presidential campaign. While Trump’s main political action committee, Save America, is spending money on Facebook ads, his own page has been frozen.
Meta suspended Trump’s accounts January 7, 2021, after his praise and encouragement to rioters who stormed the Capitol in an attack that left several dead and many others injured. The company then reduced the suspension to two years and said it would reassess whether it was safe enough to reinstate his account once that period was up.
Clegg said Wednesday that Meta needed to assess whether there were any “extraordinary circumstances” that warranted the company extending the suspension. After assessing the “current environment,” including risks related to the 2022 midterm elections, the company determined that extending the suspension was no longer necessary, Clegg said.
“Our determination is that the risk has decreased sufficiently that we should adhere to the two-year deadline that we have set,” Clegg wrote. “As such, we will be reactivating Mr Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks.”
Meta also clarified its policies to address the behavior of public figures in times of civil unrest and violence, including account limitations of up to 2 years.
“More serious violations, such as sharing a link to a statement by a terrorist group after an attack, will result in either a 6-month or 12-month content creation ban,” the company said. “In cases where there is a serious violation, we will suspend the account for 2 years.”
The company unveiled new tools to target content from public figures that does not specifically violate company rules but could lead to damaging events such as the January 6 attack. The company said it can limit the distribution of such posts by, among other things, not distributing them in people’s feeds, removing the re-share button and preventing them from being served as advertisements.
Meta’s decision is likely to spark partisan battles over how social media platforms should treat world leaders who break their rules. Before Meta’s decision, Democrats and some left-leaning advocacy groups urged the company to extend Trump’s suspension, arguing he was still spreading dangerous voter-fraud conspiracies on its alternative platform, Truth Social.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (California), who previously urged the company to extend the ban, said on Twitter that Meta’s decision will allow the president to continue “spreading his lies and demagogy.”
Social media platforms have been criticized by conservatives in the United States and even other world leaders, who argued the company had gone too far in silencing a political leader on an internet platform used for the public discourse of has become of crucial importance. Many right-wing leaders hailed Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, for reinstating Trump and pledging to create lax rules around content moderation.
In the past, social media platforms have struggled to balance their desire to expose the public to potentially newsworthy but divisive posts from world leaders with their desire to mitigate some of the damaging consequences of this rhetoric.
Meta’s suspension two years ago was the most aggressive punishment the company imposed on Trump during his four-year tenure, when he repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud, the Covid-19 pandemic and other divisive issues. While the company has historically put warning labels on some of Trump’s posts, Meta and other tech companies didn’t limit his ability to post until he praised the Jan. 6 rioters.
As a mob violently entered the Capitol, Trump posted a video on Facebook and Instagram saying the election was “stolen” but urging protesters to go home. Later that evening, as police secured the Capitol, Trump posted a written statement on Facebook claiming this “A holy landslide election victory” had been “viciously snatched from great patriots who have been treated unfairly for so long.” He later told them to go home but remember the day forever. Meta removed the posts for violating its rules and blocked him from the post for 24 hours. The next day, the company suspended Trump indefinitely.
Five months later, the Oversight Board, a group of human rights experts, academics and attorneys who make binding decisions on some of Meta’s content moderation decisions, upheld the suspension, but said its indefinite duration was reasonable and said the company should set criteria for when or whether the account could be recovered.
The oversight panel on Wednesday commended the company for expanding the penalties it applies to troubled posts held by world leaders, but urged the company to be more transparent about how it uses them.
“Meta has made significant progress in implementing necessary and appropriate penalties for a range of violation severity levels,” the board wrote.
Inside Facebook anger, regret over missed warning signs
The following month, Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said in a statement that the company would grant Trump a two-year suspension that would only be lifted if “the risk to public safety has decreased.”
Trump has so far refused to tweet since returning to Twitter, opting to use his Truth Social platform instead. Trump has said he would not rejoin Twitter, but not all of his advisers believe he will live up to that promise.