Meta to restore Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts

Meta Cambridge Analytica (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Meta Cambridge Analytica (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced that it will soon restore the twice-impeached ex-president’s access to their platforms, just over two years after Mr Trump used his social media profiles to incite a violent attack on the US Capitol.

Sir Nick Clegg, the former UK Deputy Prime Minister who is now Meta’s president for global affairs, said in a blog post that the company had made the decision after assessing “whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021” — when Mr Trump urged a violent mob to storm the seat of the US legislature in last-ditch push to remain in office — had “sufficiently receded”

“We have evaluated the current environment according to our Crisis Policy Protocol, which included looking at the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment,” he said. “Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out. As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks”.

Sir Nick added that the company will add “new guardrails” to Mr Trump’s account “to deter repeat offenses”.

Specifically, he said that the former president “ faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses” if he violates the company’s community standards. Those “penalties” will also be levied on “other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest” in the future.

“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,” he added.

The former Liberal Democrat leader also said Mr Trump would be subject to a “protocol” established to handle “content that does not violate our Community Standards but that contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6th, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon”.

Under that protocol, the company could limit the distribution of offending posts or restrict access to their platforms’ advertising tools as punishment for “repeated instances”.

“The fact is people will always say all kinds of things on the internet. We default to letting people speak, even when what they have to say is distasteful or factually wrong. Democracy is messy and people should be able to make their voices heard,” he said. “We believe it is both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however distasteful or inaccurate, is part of the rough and tumble of life in a free society”.

The announcement that Mr Trump’s access to Facebook and Instagram will soon be restored comes weeks after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, reversed the lifetime ban that the company’s prior management had imposed on the ex-president following the January 6 attack.

Mr Trump, who now owns a competing platform, Truth Social, has not yet posted on Twitter because he is contractually prohibited from doing so in most cases. It’s unclear whether he will immediately make use of the other platforms for the same reason.