Following a two-year suspension after the tragic Capitol Hill riot on January 6, 2021, Meta announced on Wednesday that it will restore former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks.
The opening of his accounts could help Trump, who declared in November that he will run for president again in 2024.
He has 23 million Instagram followers and 34 million on Facebook, which are both important venues for political financing and outreach.
Elon Musk, the new owner of his Twitter account reinstated it in November but Trump hasn’t posted anything there.
The public should have access to political candidate messaging, according to free speech proponents, but Meta has come under fire for having loose moderation standards.
In a blog post published on Wednesday, Meta claimed that it has “installed new guardrails to discourage repeat crimes.”
“If 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,” wrote Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, in the blog post.
Despite being largely predicted, the decision received stern criticism from civil rights activists.
“Facebook has policies but they under-enforce them,” said Laura Murphy, an attorney who led a two-year-long audit of Facebook concluding in 2020.
“I worry about Facebook’s capacity to understand the real world harm that Trump poses: Facebook has been too slow to act.”
In light of Trump’s continued false assertion that he won the 2020 presidential election, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Free Press, and other organisations raised alarm on Wednesday about Facebook’s capacity to stop any further assaults on the democratic process.
Others agreed, saying it was the appropriate choice.
The reinstatement was backed by Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and a former ACLU representative.
Before that, he had supported the company’s choice to suspend Trump’s account.
“The public has an interest in hearing directly from candidates for political office,” said Jaffer.
“It’s better if the major social media platforms err on the side of leaving speech up, even if the speech is offensive or false so that it can be addressed by other users and other institutions.”