February 5, 2023

More than two years after Donald J. Trump’s account was suspended by Facebook and Instagram, Meta, the platform’s owner, Say On Wednesday, it will restore the former president’s access to social media services.

Mr. Trump, who had the most followed account on Facebook when he was banned, would regain access to his accounts, which collectively have hundreds of millions of followers, “in the coming weeks,” Mehta said. In November, the ban on his Twitter account since January 2021 also reinstated Trump’s, giving the former president even more megaphones in his 2024 bid for the White House.

Meta suspended Mr. Trump’s platform on January 7, 2021, and the very next day hundreds stormed the Capitol in his name, saying his posts risked inciting more violence. Mr. Trump’s accounts on other major social media services, including YouTube and Twitter, were also deleted that week.

But Meta, which critics have accused of censoring Mr. Trump and other conservative voices, said on Wednesday it had decided to reverse the ban because it determined the public safety risk had “sufficiently abated” since January 2021. The company added that it would add guardrails in the future to “deter repeat offenders”.

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” said Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs. “But that doesn’t mean there’s no limit to what people can say on our platform. When there’s a clear real-world risk of harm — and Meta deliberately sets the bar high to interfere with public discourse — we take action.”

In a post on the right-wing social network Truth Social, Mr Trump said “deplatforming” should “never again happen to a sitting president or anyone else who deserves no reprisals!”

Meta has been at the center of a debate about free speech online and who should have the power to decide what can be posted and what needs to be taken down. The banning of Trump’s account is a stark demonstration of the power of social media platforms and whether they have too much control and influence over online public discourse.

It’s unclear whether Trump, who said last November he would return to the White House in 2024, will be active on Facebook and Instagram again. He allegedly started Truth Social, in which he has a financial stake and is obligated to make his posts public exclusively for six hours before he can share them on other sites. record and the Securities and Exchange Commission. If the message is about a political message, a fundraiser or a plan to drop out of the vote, Mr. Trump can post it to any website immediately.

Mr. Trump has not posted on Twitter since the platform reinstated his post in November. Truth Social is currently the only social network on which Mr. Trump is active. YouTube has not said whether it will allow the former president to return to the platform.

Truth Social and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a post on Meta’s blog Wednesday, Clegg said the company’s executives would rather make mistakes than allow more speech than less on Facebook and Instagram, even if the posts are “offensive or factual.” mistake”.

But Mr Clegg said Meta was taking steps to prevent such incidents in the future. Mr Clegg said Mr Trump could again be banned for “a month to two years, depending on the severity of the breach”.

Mr Clegg said Meta was considering additional measures against those who may not have explicitly breached its rules but contributed to “the kind of risk that arose on January 6”. For example, posts that legitimize elections or relate to the conspiracy theory QAnon may be “lower” in Facebook and Instagram feeds, meaning they’ll be pushed down and made less prominent.

Meta can also temporarily limit repeat offenders’ access to its advertising tools and remove retweet buttons from posts that violate its rules, effectively limiting their ability to go viral. These posts can also be limited to algorithmically recommended to other users. But the company will still keep posts that violate its rules on account pages, even if they limit the sharing of content.

When Meta banned Mr Trump in January 2021, the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said the president’s use of Facebook to “condon, rather than condemn, his supporters’ actions at the Capitol rightfully disturbed America and people all over the world”

The company removed several of Mr. Trump’s posts about the Capitol riots and initially froze his account for 24 hours. This was quickly extended to “indefinitely”.

Meta has since struggled to explain its process for removing Mr. Trump, or its policy of having separate standards for public figures who violate its rules. Critics have blasted the company for applying a double standard to certain high-profile figures, saying the biggest decisions rest largely on the whim of Mr. Zuckerberg.

In May 2021, an External Agency Oversight Committee composed of international experts, academics and former politicians, set up Mr. Zuckerberg was right to suspend Mr. Trump’s account. But it said the company would need to decide how long to suspend.

The board said it was “inappropriate” to suspend Mr Trump indefinitely because it was not a punishment expressly stated in Facebook’s user rules. In its ruling, the board asked the company to develop clearer guidelines and effectively pushed the decision on what to do with Mr. Trump’s account back to Meta’s executives.

In June 2021, Meta said it would suspend Mr Trump’s services for at least two years and would review the decision by the end of January 2023.

In recent years, Mr Zuckerberg has handed over more control of Meta’s policy decisions to Mr Clegg, a former UK deputy prime minister and career politician. In February 2022, Mr. Clegg was promoted to President of Meta Global Affairs, effectively overseeing the company’s most important policy decisions.

While Mr. Clegg has put in place a process and team to deal with these issues, responsibility will still cease with Mr. Zuckerberg’s approval. Both sides have made it clear that, except in the most exceptional circumstances, they favor more speech over less.

“The truth is people are going to say all kinds of things on the internet all the time,” Mr Clegg wrote in Wednesday’s post. “We believe it is necessary and possible to draw a line between what is harmful and should be removed, and what, however offensive or inaccurate, is the chaos and chaos of free social life.”

Michael C. Bender Contribution report.

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