More than two years after Meta extended former President Donald Trump’s “indefinite” suspension from Facebook, the company has opted to reinstate his account. In a statement, Meta said Trump would be able to access his Facebook and Instagram accounts in the “coming weeks,” but that there would be “new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”
The decision comes after Trump’s campaign had reportedly pushed for the former president to be allowed back on Facebook ahead of the upcoming presidential primaries.
Trump was originally booted from Facebook in the aftermath of the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021, after publicly praising the rioters. Meta’s handling of the initial suspension, which it quickly extended from a 24-hour ban to an “indefinite” suspension, was heavily criticized, including by its own Oversight Board. In its decision weighing in on Trump’s suspension, the board slammed Meta for not following its own rules and trying to “avoid its responsibilities.”
Meta then revisited the suspension, and said it would last for at least two years. However, the company confirmed that Trump would eventually be allowed back on Facebook. Nick Clegg, Meta’s top policy official, said at the time the former president would be “subject to new enhanced penalties” for future policy violations.
Now, Clegg says that Trump and other public figures who have been reinstated following suspensions “related to civil unrest” will face new suspensions, lasting for at least a month, for future offenses. He added Meta would also take steps to limit the reach of Trump’s posts if they contribute “to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6th, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.” While Meta may not remove those posts entirely, he said the company would consider removing the share button and blocking them from the company’s advertising and recommendations systems.
Clegg also confirmed that the company’s controversial “newsworthiness” policies could continue to apply to Trump. “In the event that Mr. Trump posts content that violates the letter of the Community Standards but, under our newsworthy content policy, we assess there is a public interest in knowing that Mr. Trump made the statement that outweighs any potential harm, we may similarly opt to restrict the distribution of such posts but leave them visible on Mr. Trump’s account,” Clegg wrote.
Meta’s decision comes just months after Elon Musk also restored the former president’s Twitter account. Trump has so far declined to restart his Twitter habit — he decamped to Truth Social last year — but is reportedly planning to return, according to a recent report in Rolling Stone. While the former president was known to favor Twitter, his Facebook following was also an important asset to both of his previous campaigns.
Trump’s suspension was also the first major test of Meta’s Oversight Board, which the company formed to help it weigh in on thorny content moderation and policy decisions. In a statement Wednesday, the board said that it had “no role” in the company’s decision to reinstate Trump, and that it plans to “publish a fuller analysis of this case in a future quarterly transparency report.”
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