Meta announced Wednesday it will end former President Trump’s suspension from Facebook and Instagram, saying the penalty imposed after January 6 was “an extraordinary decision taken in extraordinary circumstances,” and sternly pledging to enforce “certain guardrails” on Trump in the future.
The company did not say when Trump would be allowed to post on its platforms but said it was confident the “risk” he posed to public safety had passed. Twitter, which also suspended Trump in the wake of the Capitol riot also recently reinstated Trump, although the former president has so far chosen to communicate through his own platform, Truth Social.
“We are bringing Mr. Trump back in the coming weeks with certain guardrails, applicable to any public figures suspended for certain violations during times of civil unrest,” a statement from Meta read.
The company defended its controversial 2021 decision, insisting it never wanted to interfere in debate surrounding elections and that its decision had been approved by an oversight board. In lifting the suspension, Meta said that based on Trump’s past behavior on the platform, he now faces “heightened penalties for repeat offenses – penalties which will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol.”
“The penalties and potential restrictions we’ve put in place are a deterrent,” the statement read, warning that Trump could face another suspension ranging from one month to two years if he violates the company’s rules.
The company claimed that Trump had praised violent rioters at the Capitol, meriting his indefinite suspension, and that after January 6, “the risks of allowing President Trump to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” Trump has denied praising or encouraging rioters, and did in fact take to Twitter as the riot unfolded to tell his supporters to disperse.
Both Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for suspending Trump even as they allowed a host of world leaders with histories of human rights violations to maintain a presence.
Trump responded to the suspension being lifted on Truth Social.
“Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution,” Trump wrote.
Meta said its updated protocol specifically addresses content that does not technically violate the platform’s policies, but that “contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6th, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.”
“We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools,” the company said. “This step would mean that content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s Feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump. We may also remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads. In the event that Mr. Trump posts content that violates the letter of the Community Standards but, under our newsworthy content policy, we assess there is a public interest in knowing that Mr. Trump made the statement that outweighs any potential harm, we may similarly opt to restrict the distribution of such posts but leave them visible on Mr. Trump’s account.”
The company added that it was important for the public to see content from people like Trump, even if it was “distasteful or factually wrong.”