Meta To Reinstate Donald Trump Facebook, Instagram Accounts

Meta Platforms has confirmed it will reinstate Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, but will implement new safeguards to stop repeat offences.

The confirmation came in a blog post by Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, who wrote “we will be ending the suspension of Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. We’ve put new guardrails in place to deter repeat offences.”

Last week Trump’s lawyers had petitioned Meta Platforms to restore his account access to Facebook and Instagram, as the former President looks to kickstart his flagging 2024 presidential campaign.

Capitol insurrection

Donald Trump had been immediately banned and condemned for his role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January 2021, which resulted in the deaths of at least five people (including one police officer who was beaten to death).

In the immediate aftermath, Facebook (and other social media platforms) banned Trump for 24 hours, but as the full scale of the attempted insurrection became clear, Facebook suspended his accounts indefinitely.

YouTube and Twitter also initially banned Trump for a limited period of time, but Twitter opted to permanently ban Trump from its platform.

YouTube also suspended Trump’s account indefinitely.

On 21 January 2021 Facebook referred its decision to indefinitely suspend Trump’s accounts to its independent Oversight Board.

In May 2021 the Oversight Board ruled that Mark Zuckerberg’s firm could keep suspending Donald Trump on Facebook and Instagram.

However it advised that Meta revisit the account ban from 7 January 2023, two years after the suspension first began.

Trump had over 88 million followers on his Twitter account, and had almost 60 million followers across Facebook and Instagram (34m on Facebook and 23m on Instagram), before he was banned.

Elon Musk meanwhile has already restored Donald Trump’s Twitter account, but the former president has so far refused to return to the platform, preferring to stick with his Truth Social app, which has roughly 4.8 million followers.

Account reinstatement

“As a general rule, we don’t want to get in the way of open, public and democratic debate on Meta’s platforms – especially in the context of elections in democratic societies like the United States,” wrote Nick Clegg, explaining Meta’s decision to reinstate Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Nick Clegg

“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 wrote. “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.”

“Two years ago, we took action in what were extreme and highly unusual circumstances,” he added. “We indefinitely suspended then-US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. We then referred that decision to the Oversight Board.”

“In response to the Board, we imposed a time-bound suspension of two years from the date of the original suspension on January 7, 2021 – an unprecedented length of time for such a suspension,” he added.

“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,” wrote Clegg.

“Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out,” wrote Clegg. “As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offences.”

“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,” wrote Clegg.

Reinstatement anger

However Meta’s decision, while widely expected, drew sharp rebukes from civil rights advocates in the US, Reuters reported.

“Facebook has policies but they under-enforce them,” Laura Murphy, an attorney who led a two-year long audit of Facebook was reported as saying. “I worry about Facebook’s capacity to understand the real world harm that Trump poses: Facebook has been too slow to act.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Free Press and other groups also expressed concern Wednesday over Facebook’s ability to prevent any future attacks on the democratic process, with Trump still repeating his false claim that he won the 2020 presidential election.

Meanwhile democrat representative Adam Schiff, criticised 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 demagoguery is dangerous.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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