Meta has reinstated former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, two years after he was banned over posts leading up to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the company announced.
In a lengthy post titled “Ending Suspension of Trump’s Accounts With New Guardrails to Deter Repeat Offenses,” Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote the company generally doesn’t “want to get in the way of open, public and democratic debate” on its platforms, “especially in the context of democratic societies like the United States.
“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” he continued. “But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act.”
Clegg referred to Meta’s steps to ban Trump as decisive action taken in “extreme and highly unusual circumstances,” done as a response to “his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
It’s not a foregone conclusion when or even if the twice-impeached Trump will resume posting to Instagram or Facebook, but his campaign laid out he wanted to have the option via a letter to Meta sent earlier this month, The Wrap reported. “We believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse,” the letter said.
Meta’s Oversight Board upheld the decision to ban Trump but left the door open for a comeback as it “criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension and the lack of clear criteria for when and whether suspended accounts will be restored,” prompting Meta to go back to the drawing board.
Meta implemented a “time-bound suspension” effective Jan. 7, 2021, which Clegg said was “unprecedented.” The company also “clarified the circumstances in which accounts of public figures could be restricted” and introduced a new Crisis Policy Protocol and declared that as it mulled reinstating Trump, “we would assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.
“The normal state of affairs is that the public should be able to hear from a former President of the United States, and a declared candidate for that office again, on our platforms,” Clegg continued. “Now that the time period of the suspension has elapsed, the question is not whether we choose to reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, but whether there remain such extraordinary circumstances that extending the suspension beyond the original two-year period is justified.
“Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out,” Clegg wrote, and Meta was “reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks.”
Clegg noted that the company was “doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses” and reminded that Trump is subject to Meta’s Community Standards like any other user, and may face stiffer penalties for repeat violations should he incur them.
“In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” Clegg wrote.
Meta’s updated protocol also governs “content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon,” and the platforms reserve the right to “limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools.”
This means that the content could remain in people’s Feeds but Meta could “remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads.”
Finally, Clegg wrote he was “highlighting these rules today because we anticipate that should Mr. Trump choose to resume activity on our platforms, many people will call for us to take action against his account and the content he posts, while many others will be upset if he is suspended again, or if some of his content is not distributed on our platforms. We want to be as clear as possible now about our policies, so that even in those instances where people will disagree with us, they still understand the rationale for our responses.”