Meta Platforms said Wednesday that it will reinstate former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks, following a two-year suspension following the deadly riots on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.
Restoring his accounts could give a boost to Trump, who in November announced he would run for the White House again in 2024. He has 34 million followers on Facebook, platforms that are key vehicles for political outreach and fundraising.
His Twitter account was restored in November by new owner Elon Musk, though Trump has yet to post there.
Free speech advocates say it’s appropriate for the public to have access to messages from political candidates, but Meta’s critics have accused the company of lax moderation policies.
Meta said in a blog post on Wednesday that it “established new safeguards to deter repeat offenders.”
“Should Mr. Trump post further violative content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for anywhere from one month to two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, wrote. in the blog post.
The decision, while widely expected, drew strong criticism from civil rights advocates. “Facebook has policies, but they don’t enforce them,” said Laura Murphy, a lawyer who led a two-year audit of Facebook that concluded in 2020. “I’m concerned about Facebook’s ability to understand the real-world harm Trump poses. : Facebook has been too slow to act.”
The Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the Free Press and other groups also raised concerns Wednesday about Facebook’s ability to prevent further attacks on the democratic process, with Trump continuing to repeat his false claim that he won the 2020 presidential election.
Others said it was the right decision.
Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight Institute for the First Amendment at Columbia University and a former ACLU official, defended reinstatement. He had previously backed the company’s decision to suspend Trump’s account.
“The public has an interest in hearing directly from candidates for political office,” Jaffer said. “It’s better if the major social media platforms make the mistake of leaving the speech, even if the speech is offensive or false, so that other users and other institutions can address it.”
The decision to ban Trump was polarizing for Meta, the world’s largest social media company, which before Trump’s suspension had never blocked the account of a sitting head of state for violating its content rules.
The company indefinitely revoked Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts after removing two of his posts during the Capitol Hill violence, including a video in which he reiterated his false claim of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
It then referred the case to its independent oversight board, which ruled that the suspension was justified but not its indeterminate nature. In response, Meta said that he would review the suspension two years after it began.
Meta’s blog post on Wednesday suggested that it may reactivate other suspended accounts, including those penalized for their involvement in civil unrest. The company said those reinstated accounts would be subject to stricter review and penalties for violations.
It’s unclear if and how Trump will jump at the opportunity to return to Facebook and Instagram.
Trump has not sent any new tweets since he got his Twitter account back and said he would rather stick with his own Truth Social app. But his campaign spokesperson told Fox News Digital last week that returning to Facebook “will be an important tool for the 2024 campaign to reach voters.”
In a post on Truth Social, Trump responded to his reinstatement on Meta apps, saying, “Such a thing should never happen again to a sitting president, or anyone else who doesn’t deserve retribution!” He did not indicate if or when he would post to the Meta platforms again.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who previously chaired the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the decision to reinstate him.
“Trump incited an insurrection,” Schiff wrote on Twitter. “Giving him back access to a social media platform to spread his lies and demagogy is dangerous.”
© Thomson Reuters 2023