Trump’s ban on Facebook and Instagram will be lifted, Meta announces

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In a long-awaited decision, Meta has said it will allow Donald Trump back on Facebook and Instagram following a two-year ban on the platforms over his online behavior during the Jan. 6 riot.

Meta will allow Trump to return “in the coming weeks,” but “with new guardrails to deter repeat offenses,” Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a blog post explaining the decision.

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“Like any other Facebook or Instagram user, Mr. Trump is subject to our community standards,” Clegg wrote.

“In the event that Mr. Trump posts any additional infringing content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended from one month to two years, depending on the severity of the infraction.”

Trump was removed from Meta platforms after the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots, in which he posted baseless claims that the election was stolen, praised increasingly violent protesters, and condemned former Vice President Mike Pence, even as the mob threatened his life.

Clegg said the suspension was “an extraordinary decision made in extraordinary circumstances” and that Meta has considered “whether there are any such extraordinary circumstances as to warrant extending the suspension beyond the original two-year period.”

In the end, the company decided that its platforms should be available for “open, public and democratic debate” and users should be able to “hear again from a former president of the United States, and a declared candidate for that office,” he said . wrote.

“The public needs to be able to hear what their politicians are saying – the good, the bad and the ugly – so they can make informed choices at the polls,” he said.

In general, we don’t want to get in the way of open debate on our platforms, especially in the context of democratic elections. People need to be able to hear what politicians are saying – good, bad and ugly – in order to make informed choices at the ballot box. 1/4

— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) January 25, 2023

While it’s unclear if the former president will return to posting on the platform, his campaign indicated his desire to return in a letter to Meta in January.

“We believe that the ban on President Trump’s account on Facebook has dramatically distorted and hindered public discourse,” the letter said.

The move will likely affect how other social media companies will handle the delicate balance between free speech and content moderation when it comes to world leaders and other newsworthy individuals, a debate made all the more urgent by Trump’s run for the US presidency.

Online safety advocates have warned that Trump’s return will lead to an increase in misinformation and real violence. Since being removed from Meta-owned platforms, the former president has continued to promote baseless conspiracy theories elsewhere, primarily on his own network, Truth Social.

“With the mass killings in Colorado or in Buffalo, you can see that there is already a cauldron of extremism that will only intensify if Trump cooperates,” said Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters for America. “When Trump gets a platform, it raises the temperature in a landscape that is already simmering — one that will set us on the path to more violence.”

After the January 6 riots, the former president was also banned from Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube. Some of those platforms have already allowed Trump to return. Twitter’s ban, while initially permanent, was later overruled by new CEO Elon Musk. YouTube has not shared a timeline on a decision to have Trump return. Trump remains banned from Snapchat.

However, Meta dragged out its final decision. In 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a post that Trump had been banned from the platforms for encouraging violence and would remain suspended until a peaceful transfer of power could take place.

Donald Trump was suspended from Facebook and Instagram for two years after the January 6 riot. Photo: Olivier Douliery/TUSEN/Getty Images

While Zuckerberg did not initially provide a timeline for the ban, the company put its decision to permanently remove him on its board of trustees: a group of appointed academics and former politicians who were to operate independently of Facebook’s corporate executives. That group ruled in May 2021 that the sentences should not be “indefinite,” but kicked the final ruling on Trump’s bills back to Meta, suggesting it decide within six months — two years after the riots.

The TUSEN was initially set for January 7, and reports from inside Meta suggested that the company was in intense discussions about the decision. Clegg wrote in a 2021 blog post that Trump’s accounts should be closely monitored in the event of his return.

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Clegg said Meta’s “guard rails” are taking action against content that doesn’t directly violate their community standards, but “adds to the kind of risk that occurred on Jan. 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.”

Meta “may limit the spread of such posts, and for repeated instances, temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools,” Clegg said, or “remove the reshare button” from posts.

Trump responded to the news with a short statement on Truth Social, again posted by others on Twittersaying that “such a thing should never happen to a sitting president again”.

It remains to be seen if he will actually start posting again on the platforms where his accounts have been restored. While initially suggesting that he would “stay with the Truth [Social]”, his own social media platform, recent reports said he was eager to return to Facebook, formally appealing to Meta to restore his accounts. But weeks after his return to Twitter, Trump had yet to tweet. Some have suggested that the silence is due to an exclusivity deal he has with Truth Social.

A Rolling Stone report said Trump planned to start tweeting again when the agreement, which requires him to post all news on the app six hours earlier than any other platform, expires in June. Trump has a much wider reach on mainstream social platforms compared to Truth Social where he only has 5 million followers.

Many online safety advocates have warned that Trump’s return would be toxic, and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill in December urged Meta to uphold the ban.

“In order for Meta to credibly enforce legitimate election integrity policies, it is essential that your company enforce the platform ban for former President Trump,” the letter said. “Based on Meta’s own statement on standards to allow Trump back on the platform, his account should remain restricted.”

Trump’s account has remained online even after his ban, but he was unable to post new messages. As of Wednesday afternoon, he hadn’t posted again, but civil rights groups say that regardless of the former president’s future actions, the Meta decision sets a dangerous precedent.

“Whether he uses the platforms or not, a reinstatement by Meta sends a signal that there are no real consequences, even for incitement and a coup on their channels,” said a group of scholars, lawyers and activists calling themselves called the Real Facebook Oversight Board. in a statement. “Someone who has repeatedly violated their terms of service, spread disinformation on their platforms and incited violence would be welcome.”

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