“The public needs to be able to hear what politicians are saying so they can make informed choices,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of international affairs, said in a statement. “But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a risk of harm in the real world – a high risk that warrants Meta’s intervention in the public debate – we act,” he said.
Donald Trump, who wants to run for president again in 2024, was banned from the social network on January 7, 2021, while he was still in power, for having encouraged his supporters during the attack on Congress in Washington the day before. This unprecedented decision was imitated at the time by most mainstream social networks, including Twitter.
In June 2021, Facebook had decided that the exclusion would last two years, and that the Republican billionaire could only return when the “risks to public safety” had “disappeared”.
Suspension “should never again happen to a sitting president or anyone else who doesn’t deserve punishment!” “Reacted Donald Trump from his account on Truth Social, the social network he launched last year.
Still no message posted on Twitter
Last week, the former president officially asked to be able to return to Facebook. His lawyer had sent a letter to the founder and president of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, calling on him not to “reduce a presidential candidate to silence”.
The politician had already been readmitted to Twitter on November 19, 2022, shortly after declaring his candidacy for 2024. However, he has not yet posted a message on this account, communicating mainly through his own platform, Truth Social. But the reach of Truth Social is very small compared to what Donald Trump had before.
“Trump needs (Facebook) to raise funds,” Andrew Selepak, professor of media and technology at the University of Florida, recently underlined on Twitter.
Meta made “the right decision. Like it or not, Donald Trump is one of the leading political figures in the country and it is in the public interest to hear what he has to say,” reacted Anthony Romero, the director of the powerful civil rights association ACLU. He further notes that “some of the most shocking messages Trump has posted on social media have been used as evidence against him and his administration in lawsuits.”
“It is a calamitous and irresponsible decision by Meta, which will (…) fuel the spread of hatred and misinformation”, for its part commented on the “real Facebook supervisory board”, an association very critical of the network. social.
A new penalty grid
“We know that any decision on this subject will be fiercely criticized,” said Nick Clegg.
The world number two in online advertising is at the heart of the debate between supporters of stricter content moderation, to clean up the platforms – generally on the left of the American political spectrum – and those who accuse the big platforms of ” censorship”, especially against Republicans, without proof.
Suspending a president from power was “an extraordinary decision, taken in extraordinary circumstances,” said Nick Clegg.
Meta determined that “the risk to public safety had diminished enough” to let Donald Trump return, but with the new safeguards in place, especially against repeat offenders, to deter further violations of the rules of the two social networks.
The company had indeed adopted a new grid of sanctions in 2021, after a particularly tense American presidential campaign and the invasion of the Capitol on the day of the formalization of Joe Biden’s victory.
In addition to his support for his supporters that day, Donald Trump had been hammering his “Big Lie” theory for months – unfounded allegations that the 2020 presidential election had been “stolen” from him.
“If Donald Trump publishes transgressive content again, it will be removed and he will be suspended between one month and two years, depending on the seriousness of the offense”, detailed Nick Clegg.
Meta will thus be able to curb the spread of messages that do not pose concrete risks but contribute to “undermining the legitimacy of an election”.
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