On Wednesday, January 25, Facebook parent Meta announced it would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s accounts in the coming weeks. The move definitively ends the 2-year suspension imposed on him in the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol insurgency.
However, Meta maintained that even though they have offered him a second chance, they will be watchful of his actions and may suspend him again if he posts inflammatory content.
Meta’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, stated in a post, “The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box.” He added, “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 also stated that if Trump or anyone else posts material that doesn’t infringe on Facebook’s rules but is still viewed as harmful and can lead to events like the January 6 insurrection, it may also limit the reach of the account in question.
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Facebook suspended Trump on January 7, 2021, for supporting those responsible for violent events at the Capitol the previous day. The company was initially hesitant to terminate Trump’s account, even after its own employees called for a ban.
With Trump having access to his personal Facebook and Instagram accounts again, he gets direct access to a huge support base that was unavailable to him for the past 2 years.
Following his ban from Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter, Trump used ‘Truth Social,’ his own social media platform, as a mouthpiece to post controversial content. However, it is irrefutable that Facebook, apart from being the world’s biggest social media site, is also a considerable fundraising avenue for Trump’s election campaigns.
With Facebook giving him a platform again, Trump will be able to communicate directly to his 34 million followers which is significantly more than the 4.8 million user base he has on Truth Social. Apart from reaching out to his followers, he can also continue with direct fundraising. During the suspension period, Trump had to rely on his friends and supporters to raise funds for him; he couldn’t run ads in his own name or use his voice.
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Though the likes of TikTok have overtaken Facebook for the newer generation, Facebook is still the most powerful political platform, especially for people above 35. This segment is most likely to vote and help in funding campaigns.
Twitter has actually been Trump’s favorite mouthpiece, where he would leave no stone unturned to post scathing and false comments against his detractors, taking advantage of Twitter’s relatively tolerant moderation policies. In fact, his tweets had a role to play in inciting the attack on the US capitol.
Consequently, Facebook and Instagram banned him for two years, while Twitter banned him permanently. However, Trump’s Twitter account was reinstated after Elon Musk took over the company.
Though Trump refrained from tweeting and preferred to use Truth Social, sources state that he may join the microblogging site in the near future. It is likely that the former president would like to take the fullest advantage of every social media platform available to him to maximize his chances of winning the 2024 Presidential Election.
Trump’s reinstatement on Facebook has met with polarized reactions across sections of the media.
NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) has criticized the decision and called it a “prime example of putting profits above people’s safety” and a “grave mistake”.
Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters for America said, “Make no mistake – by allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refuelling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine.”
Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky shared her thoughts on Meta reinstating Donald Trump’s accounts and said it “will only fan the flames of hatred and division that led to an insurrection.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, strongly believes that Trump should not be given a platform like Facebook to “spread hate and incite violence.”
Free Press Co-CEO, Jessica J. González, believes that Meta’s announcement is “cowardly and unethical decision” that “will cause incalculable harm”.
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