Facebook parent company Meta said on Wednesday it would restore former US President Donald Trump’s personal account in the coming weeks, ending a two-year suspension it imposed following the January 6 uprising.
The company said in a blog post that it was adding ‘new guardrails’ to ensure there were no ‘repeat offenders’ breaking its rules, even if they were applicants. politicians or world leaders.
“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,” wrote Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Meta.
Clegg added that when there is a “clear risk” of real-world harm, Meta will step in.
“In the event that Mr. Trump posts further infringing content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the seriousness of the violation,” he wrote. Facebook suspended Trump on Jan. 7, 2021, for praising people who engaged in violence on Capitol Hill a day earlier. But the company had resisted previous calls — including from its own employees — to delete Trump’s account.
Meta said Trump’s accounts will be restored “in the coming weeks” to Facebook and Instagram. Banned from mainstream social media, Trump relied on Truth Social, which he started after being blocked on Twitter.
Facebook is not only the world’s largest social media site, but has been a crucial source of campaign fundraising revenue for Trump, who spent millions on the company’s ads in 2016. and 2020. The move, which comes as Trump ramps up his third run for the White House, will not only allow Trump to communicate directly with his 34 million followers — significantly more than the 4.8 million who currently follow him on Truth Social – but will also allow him to resume direct fundraising. During the suspension, his supporters were able to fundraise for him, but could not run ads directly from him or in his voice.
In response to the news, Trump blasted Facebook’s initial decision to suspend his account as he praised Truth Social.
“FACEBOOK, which has lost billions of dollars since it ‘twisted’ your favorite president, me, just announced that it is reinstating my account. Such a thing should never happen to a sitting president again, or to anyone who doesn’t deserve retaliation!” he wrote.
Other social media companies, including Snapchat, where he remains suspended, also kicked him from their platforms following the uprising. He was recently reinstated on Twitter after Elon Musk took over the company. He hasn’t tweeted yet.
Civil rights groups and others on the left were quick to denounce Meta’s decision. Letting Trump return to Facebook sends a signal to other figures with large online audiences that they can break the rules without lasting consequences, said Heidi Beirich, founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and member of a group called the Real Facebook Oversight Board that criticized the platform’s efforts.
“I’m not surprised but it’s a disaster,” Beirich said of Meta’s decision. “Facebook created loopholes for Trump that he walked through. He instigated an insurrection on Facebook. And now he’s back.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson blasted the decision as “a great example of putting profits ahead of people’s safety” and a “serious mistake”.
“It’s pretty amazing how you can spit hate, fuel conspiracies and incite violent insurrection on our nation’s Capitol, and Mark Zuckerberg still thinks that’s not enough to remove someone from his platforms,” he said.
But Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, called reinstatement “a good move – not because the former president has a right to be on the platform, but because the public has an interest in hearing candidates for political office directly.”
The ACLU also called it a good decision.
“Like it or not, President Trump is one of the nation’s leading political figures and the public has a keen interest in hearing his speech. Indeed, some of Trump’s most offensive social media posts have ended up being essential evidence in the lawsuits against him and his administration,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The biggest social media companies are central players when it comes to It’s about our collective ability to speak – and hear the speech of others – online. They should err on the side of allowing a wide range of political speech, even when it is offensive. “
Clegg said that in light of his previous violations, Trump now faces stiffer penalties for repeat violations. These sanctions “will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated following suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol.”
If Trump — or anyone else — posts material that doesn’t violate Facebook’s rules but is otherwise harmful and could lead to events like the Jan. 6 insurrection, Meta says he won’t. won’t remove it, but it might limit its scope. This includes praising the QAnon conspiracy theory or trying to delegitimize an upcoming election.
While Trump has publicly insisted he has no plans to return to Twitter, he has discussed it in recent weeks, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Although it has been culturally overshadowed by newer rivals like TikTok, Facebook remains the world’s largest social media site and is an incredibly powerful political platform, especially among older Americans, who are most likely to vote and give money to campaigns.
Throughout his tenure as President, Trump’s use of social media has posed a significant challenge to major social media platforms trying to balance the public’s need to hear from their elected leaders with concerns about misinformation, harassment and incitement to violence.
“In a healthier news ecosystem, the decisions of a single company would not have such immense political significance, and we hope that new platforms will emerge to challenge the hegemony of the social media giants,” said ACLU’s Romero.
Associated Press writer David Klepper in Washington and AP Technology writer Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this story.
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