Meta is allowing its most controversial user – former President Donald Trump – back on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook and Instagram, along with Twitter, YouTube and Snap, suspended Trump after the former president He praised the rioters as they stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, explained Trump’s “indefinite hold” at the time by saying He had it inappropriately He used Facebook to incite “violent insurrection” against American democracy.
Two years later, Meta says Trump is no longer an immediate danger to public safety. On Wednesday, she said she would end the suspension of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. Its decision follows last month’s Twitter call for the Revoke her permanent ban on Trump.
“The public must be able to hear what politicians have to say – the good, the bad and the ugly – so they can make informed choices at the ballot box.” Meta’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote in the company’s blog post. “But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform.”
In the post, Clegg wrote that the Meta has determined that the risk to public safety has “sufficiently receded,” but that the Meta will add new protections on future Trump posts if they contribute to “the kind of danger that occurred on January 6,” such as posts delegitimizing the election or QAnon support. New penalties include Meta limiting access to Trump’s Facebook feed posts, restricting access to advertising tools, and removing the reshare button from offending posts. If Trump continues to violate Facebook’s rules, the company can suspend him again for a period of between one month and two years.
It is true that the United States is no longer in the midst of power transitions between presidents, nor is it no longer in the midst of nationwide pandemic lockdowns that have caused political frustration.
But one thing did not Trump himself has changed. The former president did not back down from any of his anti-election views The rioters said their violence inspired them On January 6, he continued to post false claims that The 2020 elections were “rigged”, to Attacking local election workers His job is counting votes, and promoting conspiracy theories like QAnon. It caused his supporters to believe that the election was stolen Democracy expertsAnd About three in five Americansfearing more violence during the 2024 presidential election.
If Trump does indeed start using Facebook again — which seems likely — every time he posts an election lie or veiled threat, or amplifies a dangerous QAnon theory, the company will have to decide if that post violates its rules, and what the consequences will be.
“People will scrutinize every post Trump makes,” said Katie Harbath, a former director of public policy at Facebook and a Republican political operative who now runs her own tech policy advisory firm, Anchor Change. She added, “Life will be hell” for platforms like Facebook if Trump returns.
The Meta had the best buckle up. During the Trump Presidency, Facebook He faced an employee uprisinga Boycott major advertiserspolitical reaction from Democratic party leaders Because of Trump’s posts on her platforms. The past two years since Trump’s ban has been a reprieve to minimize the public fallout from Trump’s posts.
Now Trump is Facebook’s problem again.
Why Trump might actually go back to Facebook
For a while, it looked as if Trump wouldn’t return to mainstream social media even if given the chance. He’s had access to Twitter for a month but hasn’t tweeted yet.
It may be due to his contractual obligation to post on his company’s social media app. Trump Legally required to post first on Truth Social before he moved his posts to other social media platforms (although there is a major exception for “political messages”), per filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
But now Trump – who last month announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2024 – is said to be He seeks to get out of his exclusive contract With Truth Social and He plans his return on both Twitter and Facebook. Last week, Trump’s legal team wrote a letter to Meta requesting a meeting with the company’s leadership and urging the company to lift his suspension.
While Twitter may be Trump’s platform of choice for getting media attention and sharing his unfiltered thoughts, Facebook is by far the most powerful social media app for running a political campaign. This is due to the huge size of Facebook’s active user base – nearly 3 billion people – compared to more than 350 million on Twitter and 2 million on Truth Social.
Any candidate must take the place of his electorate. And as far as digital campaigns are concerned, Facebook is the largest conglomerate in the country,” Republican digital campaign strategist Eric Wilson, who leads the Center for Campaign Innovation, told Recode.
Facebook is also a major fundraising mechanism for Trump. While on Facebook, he was not allowed to run ads or collect donations on the platform.
If and when Trump starts posting again on Facebook and Instagram, get ready to see more of what he shares on Truth Social: From April 28 to October 8, Trump shared 116 posts amplifying “QAnon followers and sympathizers” and 239 posts containing “harmful election-related misinformation.” “, according to Accountable Tech. Technical Monitoring Group. He also made comments promoting Election fraud conspiracy theories Critics say it encouraged harassment of election workers, like threats Hangings, firing squads, torture and bombs.
“Trump’s rhetoric has gotten worse” since his Facebook comment, said Nicole Gill, president of Accountable Tech. “I committed myself “The Big Lie” and deny the election.”
last thursday, Trump wrote on Truth Social in part“The election was rigged and stolen, the unelected committee of political hacks and criminals refused to discuss it, and that’s how it goes.”
According to Facebook’s rules, a post containing a claim that the 2020 election was rigged would not violate its rules because it is about a past election, not a current one. But if Trump were to post something like this during the 2024 election, Facebook would face harsh appeals.
Questions abound about how Facebook will handle Trump the second time around
Now that Trump is being welcomed back to Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s policies around political speech will attract renewed scrutiny.
Today, Facebook handles political discourse in a subtle way. While the company has rules against harmful speech such as health-related misinformation about the Covid-19 virus or the promotion of dangerous groups, the company can issue “publication-worthy” exception To allow publication if it is found to be in the public interest. In 2019, Clegg Announce that the company will handle the speech of politicians as news content that “must, as a general rule, be seen and heard,” but in 2021 it retracted that policy by saying that politicians’ content would no longer It is automatically assumed to be newsworthy — though Facebook can still make exceptions for politicians on a case-by-case basis. The barrier to actually preventing Facebook from banning a politician’s speech remains high: only if the content could cause real-world harm that outweighs the public interest in letting it go.
Wilson, a Republican digital strategist, argued that Facebook should be more lenient on political speech.
Once Facebook enforces speech policies against a politician, Wilson says it opens the door for politicians to “work on refs” and ask Facebook to suspend or restrict opposition political speech.
It’s easier to say, well, those are the criteria you used to get Trump off the podium when he was a candidate. Then let me give you five examples of where my opponent crossed that line as well,” Wilson told Recode.
Recode spoke with other political advisors and experts, such as Casey Mattox, a lawyer and free-speech expert for the libertarian-conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, who argued that Facebook should hold politicians to the same standards as everyone else. There should be one set of rules for everyone, and if anything, Facebook should pay more Pay attention to politicians, because their rhetoric has more impact.
“I think they’d be on better ground then [Meta] He basically said, “Look, those are the rules, and the president and everyone else is expected to abide by those same rules,” Mattox said.
One thing these advisors and experts agreed on, regardless of what they think is the right approach: Facebook needs to be more transparent about how it enforces its policies when it comes to high-profile politicians like Trump.
“The decision is important to the meta in the context of whether it adheres to a set of rules that people can look at and see as neutral rules? [Rules] “It relies on basic criteria, doesn’t it differ according to political orientation?” said David Kaye, a former UN expert on freedom of expression and professor of law at the University of California, Irvine. “I think that’s the key.”
Meta has been criticized by the Oversight Board — an independent group of academics, human rights experts and lawyers who advise the company on content decisions and policies — that it needs to be more explicit about its rules and enforcement of political speech, particularly after Trump’s decision. In response, Meta He said it would be revealed When it makes exceptions to its rules for newsworthy figures like Trump and has developed a “crisis policy protocol” for how it handles speech in times of escalating democratic violence.
But Mita still makes her decisions behind closed doors. When deciding whether to reinstate Trump for office, Facebook It is said that it was created A special team of policy, communications and other business executives, with Clegg, the company’s top policy – a former British politician – at the helm. The company also consulted with “external stakeholders” but did not share who they were.
If Facebook was truly transparent about Trump’s decisions, it would differentiate itself from Twitter, which is Fairly new CEO and owner Elon Musk I gave a little explanation to re trump Other than Musk’s belief in freedom of speech and the results of his 24-hour public opinion poll, Musk posted on his Twitter page.
“Meta can be kind of a no-brainer here; they can really make the point that freedom of speech on our platform in general isn’t just about the speaker’s right to say what they want,” said Kay.
No matter how Facebook justifies Trump’s continued presence on its platform, he’s in for a wild ride. Although today’s decision can be seen as the end of two years of uncertainty, in many ways it is just the beginning.