Posted on January 26, 2023

Facebook to Reinstate Trump

Sara Fischer and Mike Allen, Axios, January 25, 2023

Meta will reinstate former President Trump‘s Facebook and Instagram accounts “in coming weeks” following a two-year suspension, according to Nick Clegg, the company’s president, global affairs.

Why it matters: The decision sets a new precedent for how the company treats world leaders, and it could change the trajectory of the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

  • “We’ve always believed that Americans should be able to hear from the people who want to lead the country,” Clegg told Axios. “We don’t want to stand in the way of that.”

Flashback: Facebook, along with Twitter and many other social media platforms, barred Trump soon after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol for breaking their rules and over fears of further incitements to violence.

The big picture: The reinstatement of Trump’s accounts will allow him to run ads via his Facebook and Instagram pages, which have 34 million and 23 million followers, respectively.

  • Trump relied heavily on Facebook ads in previous election cycles for fundraising and list-building.
  • Under Elon Musk, Twitter has also reinstated Trump’s account, but he has not posted yet, continuing to rely on his account at Truth Social instead.

Yes, but: Trump will be subject to new policies that Meta has created following feedback from its independent Oversight Board that could restrict his accounts — including his ability to run ads — should he violate the company’s policies in the future.

  • “We just do not want — if he is to return to our services — for him to do what he did on January 6, which is to use our services to delegitimize the 2024 election, much as he sought to discredit the 2020 election,” Clegg said.
  • His accounts will not be reinstated immediately, Clegg said, because Meta’s engineers will need time to build out some of the new functionality necessary to restrict certain posts or ad capabilities in the future, if needed.

How it works: Trump will be subject to new policies around restricting accounts by public figures during civil unrest. Under those policies, Meta can decide to restrict the account of a public figure that violates its community standards for a time ranging from one month to two years.

  • Trump will also be subject to a crisis policy protocol, introduced by Meta in August, that will consider both on and off-platform risks of imminent harm to evaluating whether the actions or speech of any public figures requires sanctioning.
  • “If he now posts further violating content, that content will be removed, of course, and he could be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” Clegg said.

Be smart: For actions or speech that don’t explicitly violate Meta’s community standards, Clegg said the company will retain discretion to take action, and may enforce different types of guardrails, including limiting the distribution of posts without removing them or temporarily restricting access to its advertising tools.