Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram announced on Wednesday that former United States President Donald Trump’s handles on the social media platforms will be reinstated, two years after they were indefinitely suspended.
Trump had been banned from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter after his supporters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington on January 6, 2021. The violence took place after Trump lost the US Presidential elections and posted a series of statements on social media alleging that the polls were rigged.
A day after the violence, Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had announced that Trump’s account handles on Facebook and Instagram will be suspended as he had used the platforms to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government”.
After suspending Trump’s account, Meta had referred its decision to the Oversight Board, an expert body established to be an independent check and balance on the company’s decision-making. The board has directed Meta to impose a more time-bound suspension order instead of an indefinite ban on Trump.
“The Board upheld the decision but criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension and the lack of clear criteria for when and whether suspended accounts will be restored,” Meta said in a statement on Wednesday.
The technology company said that it has updated its protocol which addresses content that contributes to the sort of risk that led to the violence of January 6, such as content that delegitimises an upcoming election or is related to some conspiracy theory.
“In light of his [Trump’s] 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,” Meta said in its statement. “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.”
Meanwhile, the Oversight Board called Meta’s decision a “pivotal moment in the debate over the best way to handle harmful content posted by politicians on social media”. However, it urged Meta to provide additional details of its assessment so that it can review the implementation of the board’s decision and recommendations in this case.
The board also asked Meta to define varying severity of violations by public figures in the context of civil unrest, and to articulate the way that the policy on public figure violations in the context of civil unrest relates to the crisis policy protocol.
Trump’s return to Facebook, and Instagram comes two months after Twitter had reinstated his account on November 20. The social media company’s billionaire owner Elon Musk had held a poll asking whether the former president’s account should be restored.
Last month the congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol had recommended prosecuting Trump under four criminal charges.