The parent company of Facebook and Instagram will reinstate former President Donald Trump’s accounts on those platforms, it said Wednesday, ending a two-year suspension enacted in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
Meta will reactivate Trump’s accounts in the coming weeks after determining that the public safety risk the company said Trump posed at the time of the insurrection “has sufficiently receded,” Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs, said in a statement.
Trump was the most-followed person on Facebook at the time of his suspension, and the reinstatement will give him back platforms where he can speak directly to millions of followers as he ramps up his 2024 presidential campaign.
Meta handed Trump a two-year ban on Jan. 7, 2021, for posts that it said incited violence, including those Trump made while his followers were actively storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. The two-year mark passed earlier this month, and Meta reexamined the suspension, determining that no extraordinary circumstances necessitated the extension of the ban, it said.
“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,” Clegg said in the statement. “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. But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform.”
Though Trump’s accounts will be restored, he will face new and stricter guidelines, and enhanced penalties for repeat violations.
For content that does not violate Meta’s rules, but “contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6th” – including content “delegitimizing” an election or content related to QAnon, a sprawling, right-wing conspiracy – the company many limit distribution of those posts or restrict access to advertising tools.
Meta’s decision comes after Twitter, now under new owner Elon Musk, similarly reinstated Trump’s account. Trump has yet to tweet since his account was unlocked.
Trump stood up his own social media platform, Truth Social, in the last two years, where he posts frequently to a primed audience of nearly 5 million followers – a considerable number but still a dramatically smaller followership than he enjoyed on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“There is a significant debate about how social media companies should approach content posted on their platforms,” Clegg said in the statement. “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.”