(Bloomberg) — Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. has reinstated former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following a two-year suspension for violating the social networks’ rules.
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The company’s decision to withdraw the suspension, announced Wednesday, means Trump can now reach tens of millions of followers across the two services as he makes another bid for the White House.
“As a general rule, we don’t want to get in the way of open, public and democratic debate on Meta’s platforms — especially in the context of elections in democratic societies like the United States,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said in a blog post.
Trump’s accounts were shut down on Jan. 6, 2021, after the company deemed that some of his posts were encouraging his supporters to violently riot at the US Capitol to try and stop Congress from confirming the results of the presidential election, which Joe Biden won. The temporary suspension was changed to an “indefinite” suspension the following day.
“In light of his violations, he now also 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,” Clegg said in the post. “In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation.”
Meta sought feedback from an Oversight Board — a group of outside lawyers, journalists and policy experts paid by Meta. With its input, the company decided that the suspension would last for at least two years. Clegg was the executive responsible for deciding whether to reinstate his account, taking heat off of Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer.
Trump, who announced last November he’s running again for president in 2024 and used Facebook extensively during his last two campaigns, had asked Zuckerberg and other company officials to reinstate his access, saying that keeping him off the platform is interfering with the political process.
The former president also said in a Jan. 5 Truth Social post that Meta “has been doing very poorly” and “become very boring” since suspending him. He also said removing him and changing the company’s name to Meta from Facebook “will go down in the Business Hall of Fame for two of the worst decisions in Business History!”
Trump also had access to his Twitter account restored in November after new owner Elon Musk reversed a ban. Trump has yet to post, saying he’ll stick with posting on Truth Social, his own social-media platform.
But Trump’s reach on Truth Social is dwarfed by what he had with Facebook and Twitter. He has 4.8 million followers on Truth Social compared with 87.7 million on his old Twitter account and 34 million on his former official Facebook page.
Lawmakers, including Democratic US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and US Representative Adam Schiff of California, sent a letter to Clegg last month urging Meta to continue Trump’s suspension and to “maintain its commitment to keeping dangerous election denial content off its platform.”
The lawmakers said Trump continues to post “harmful election content” and amplify QAnon sites on Truth Social that would likely violate Meta’s policies. “We have every reason to believe he would bring similar conspiratorial rhetoric back to Facebook, if given the chance,” they said in the letter.
The letter noted that Trump has posted false claims about election rigging in Arizona and other states in the midterms. The former president shared Truth Social posts earlier this month repeating debunked conspiracies about Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman and others “stuffing the ballot boxes” in 2020.
Freeman and her daughter gave emotional testimony last year to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection about how they received death threats and didn’t want to venture out in public because of Trump’s baseless attacks on them.
The former president has continued to advertise and raise money on Facebook through his Save America leadership political action committee. Last year, Save America placed almost 10,000 ads on Facebook for almost $655,000, according to AdImpact.
(Updates with penalties for Trump in the fifth paragraph)
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