Meta will restore Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts
Just over two years after Donald J. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended, Meta, the platform’s owner, said Wednesday it would restore the former president’s access to social media services.
Mr Trump, who had the most followed account on Facebook when he was banned, will “in the coming weeks” regain access to his accounts which collectively had hundreds of millions of followers, Meta said. In November, Mr Trump’s account was also reinstated on Twitter, which had banned him since January 2021, collectively giving the former president more than a megaphone as he campaigned for the White House in 2024.
Meta suspended Mr. Trump from his platforms on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after hundreds of people stormed the Capitol in his name, saying his posts risked inciting more violence. Mr. Trump’s accounts on other mainstream social media services, including YouTube and Twitter, were also deleted that week.
But Meta, who critics have accused of censoring Mr. Trump and other conservative voices, said Wednesday he decided to roll back the bans because he determined the risk to public safety had “reduced enough since January 2021. The company added that it would add safeguards to “deter repeat offenses” in the future.
“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,” said Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta. “But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform.”
In a post on the right-wing social network Truth Social, Trump said “deplatforming” should “never again happen to a sitting president, or anyone else who doesn’t deserve retaliation!”
Meta has been at the center of a debate over freedom of expression online and who should have the power to decide what can be posted and what should be deleted. The banning of Mr. Trump’s accounts was a blatant display of the influence of social media platforms and the fact that they have too much control and influence over public discourse online.
Understanding the events of January 6
The upcoming reinstatement of Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was immediately criticized by Democratic lawmakers and disinformation experts, who said the move would allow the former president to spread controversial and inflammatory messages.
“The Capitol community is still picking up the pieces of the Jan. 6 insurrection that Trump sparked, and now he’s returning to the virtual crime scene,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Deputy Chief Whip and Democrat. from Illinois. a statement by e-mail.
But Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Meta’s decision was “the right decision” because Mr. Trump is a high-profile political figure and the public is interested in hearing from him. . “While the government cannot force platforms to broadcast certain speeches, that does not mean that the biggest platforms should engage in political censorship,” Romero said.
It’s unclear whether Mr Trump, who said in November he was running for the White House again in 2024, will become active again on Facebook and Instagram. He launched Truth Social, in which he has a financial stake and where he is required to make his posts available exclusively for six hours before he can share them on other sites, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Trump can post on any site immediately if the posts relate to political messages, fundraisers or ballot initiatives.
Mr Trump has not posted on Twitter since the platform reinstated him in November. Truth Social is currently the only social network on which Mr. Trump is active. YouTube did not say whether it would allow the former president to return to the platform.
Truth Social and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a Meta blog post on Wednesday, Clegg said the company’s executives would rather err on the side of allowing more talk on Facebook and Instagram than less, even when the posts were “tasteless or factually erroneous”.
But Meta is taking steps to prevent future incidents, Clegg said. Mr. Trump could face another ban “between one month and two years, depending on the seriousness of the violation,” Mr. Clegg said.
Meta is considering putting in place further measures against those who may not be explicitly violating its rules but are contributing to the “type of risk that materialized on January 6,” Clegg said. Posts that delegitimize the election or are linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory, for example, can be “demoted” on Facebook and Instagram feeds, meaning they will be pushed back and become less visible.
Meta could also temporarily restrict access to its advertising tools for repeat offenders and remove the reshare button from posts that violate its rules, limiting their ability to go viral. Posts could also be restricted from being algorithmically recommended to other users. But the company would still keep posts that violate its rules visible on the account page, even if they restrict content sharing.
When Meta banned Mr. Trump in January 2021, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, said the president’s use of Facebook to ‘tolerate rather than condemn the actions of his supporters on Capitol Hill was rightly bothered people in the United States and around the world.”
The company deleted several of Mr. Trump’s posts regarding the Capitol riot and initially froze his accounts for a 24-hour period. This was soon extended to “indefinitely”.
Meta has since struggled to explain its impeachment process for Mr. Trump, or its policies that have separate standards for public figures who violate its rules. Critics have attacked the company for adopting double standards around certain high-profile figures, saying the most important decisions are largely based on the whims of Mr Zuckerberg.
In May 2021, the Oversight Council, an external body made up of international experts, academics and former politicians, ruled that Mr. Zuckerberg was right to suspend Mr. Trump’s account. But he said the company needs to decide on a specific duration for that suspension.
The board said an indefinite suspension of Mr. Trump was “not appropriate” because it was not a clearly defined punishment in Facebook’s Terms of Service. In its decision, the board asked the company to create clearer guidelines and effectively referred the decision on how to handle Mr. Trump’s accounts to Meta executives.
In June 2021, Meta said he would suspend Mr. Trump from service for at least two years and review the decision by the end of January 2023.
In recent years, Mr. Zuckerberg has handed more control over Meta’s policy decisions to Mr. Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister and career politician. In February 2022, Mr. Clegg was promoted to President of Global Affairs at Meta, effectively overseeing the company’s most important policy decisions.
Although Mr. Clegg has a process and a team in place to handle these matters, the buck always ends with Mr. Zuckerberg’s approval. Both have made it clear that they favor more speeches rather than less, except in the most extraordinary circumstances.
“The fact is, people will always say all sorts of things on the internet,” Mr. Clegg wrote in his post on Wednesday. “We believe it is both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however distasteful or inaccurate, is part of the hustle and bustle of life in a society. free.”
Michael C. Bender contributed report.