Meta's decision to reinstate former President Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts “in the coming weeks” drew a storm of protest Wednesday (January 25) from groups that had supported the former president’s banishment from the social media powerhouse.
Meta said the reinstatement will come with “guardrails” to deter any repeat of the conduct that drew the suspension. “The public should be able to hear what politicians are saying so they can make informed choices,” Nick Clegg, president of global affairs for the company, said. Clegg also said the ban had been under “extreme and unusual circumstances” and that now that former president Trump was a declared candidate for president the “normal state of affairs” is for the public to hear what he has to say.
Trump will face enhanced penalties for violating Meta's community standards, including for content that “delegitimizes an upcoming election.” Those penalties could include temporarily restricting access to content or advertising tools.
Trump’s accounts were suspended by Meta’s oversight board after he praised the Capitol rioters, but the board criticized the fact that the suspension was open-ended, saying an indefinite and standardless penalty was not appropriate.
Nonetheless, Facebook extended the ban back in June 2021, saying it would last until at least January 2023. It cited the gravity of the attempted insurrection tied to Trump’s baseless claims of massive election fraud, claims he has continued to make and which Facebook said were dangerous.
Trump was the lead on a class action suit against Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as their respective CEOs, for their “shameful censorship” of conservative speech.
“Make no mistake — by allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refueling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine,” Media Matters said. “This not only will have an impact on Instagram and Facebook users, but it also presents intensified threats to civil society and an existential threat to U.S. democracy as a whole.”
“Meta is moving backwards,” said Free Press co-CEO Jessica González, “returning us to a time when Donald Trump used the company’s powerful tools to spread lies and dangerous rhetoric, and incite violence targeted at disenfranchised communities and his ideological enemies.”
“By allowing Trump back onto Meta platforms, Facebook and Instagram, Meta has given the former President a renewed platform to radicalize his followers and spread gendered and racialized disinformation encouraging violence,” said Bridget Todd, director of communications at gender justice group UltraViolet. “Facebook has chosen Donald Trump and the traffic he brings to the platform over the lives and wellbeing of its users and the American people. Shame on them.”
Fight for the Future has its own issues with Big Tech's content moderation, but also with the motives for Trump’s complaints about censorship. “Once again, Trump has made himself a huge distraction,” the group said. “By allowing the former president to remain the center of attention in world-changing debates about content regulation, free speech and the harms of Big Tech, we’re helping him accomplish his vile goals of silencing and oppressing the most vulnerable.” ▪️
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.