Meta to lift Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram bans

Social networks parent says former US president now faces greater penalties for repeat offences

In this photo illustration, a phone screen displays a Facebook logo with the official portrait of former US President Donald Trump on the background, on May 4, 2021, in Arlington, Virginia. Facebook's independent oversight board was set for a momentous decision on the platform's ban of former US president Donald Trump, as debate swirls on the role of social media in curbing hateful and abusive speech while controlling political discourse. - 
 / AFP / Olivier DOULIERY
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Former US president Donald Trump will be allowed back on to Meta's social networks Facebook and Instagram after a long suspension, the company said on Wednesday.

Mr Trump was indefinitely suspended for posts that were considered to be incendiary after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Other popular social networks such as Twitter, Snapchat and Reddit also barred him.

“We will be ending the suspension of Mr Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks,” Nick Clegg, Meta president of global affairs.

The move is a boon for Mr Trump, who is now running for president for the third time.

It brings scrutiny by critics who believe the political leader has not been held accountable for his role in the insurrection.

Mr Trump's return "presents intensified threats to civil society and an existential threat to US democracy as a whole" and will "turn Facebook and Instagram into a cesspool of hate, violence and extremism", Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone said.

Mr Clegg said Mr Trump would be under intense oversight for possible breaches of Facebook and Instagram policy.

“In light of his violations, he now also faces heightened penalties for repeat offences — penalties that will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol,” he said.

Meta believes the public should be able to hear from politicians online, and free speech advocates agree.

“This is the right call—not because the former president has any right to be on the platform but because the public has an interest in hearing directly from candidates for political office," said Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

If Mr Trump breaches any policies again, he could be suspended for as long as two years again, Mr Clegg said.

In November, Mr Trump's Twitter account was reinstated after a poll by Elon Musk, which supported the former president's return to what was once his most frequently used platform.

He has yet to return to the platform even though he has nearly 88 million followers on Twitter.

But Mr Trump has a contractual obligation to his Truth Social network, where he has accumulated 4.84 million followers since its launch.

A look at former president Donald Trump's Truth Social feed — in pictures

Updated: January 26, 2023, 1:48 PM
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