Donald Trump could be back to his old social media antics in just a few months. The two-year ban, barring the former poster-in-chief from Facebook, expires at the beginning of 2023. And Meta, Facebook’s parent company, hasn’t revealed whether it’ll be extending Trump’s virtual exile.
“When you make a decision that affects the public realm, you need to act with great caution,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, reportedly said during a media event hosted by the new news organization Semafor. It seems that Clegg is who will ultimately be tasked with deciding, one way or the other, the fate of Trump’s Facebook presence.
The exec further explained that, to determine the company’s future course of action, Meta would consult with outside sources, and assess the risk of “real-world harm.” All of which echoes previous company statements.
The former president was kicked off of Meta platforms, Facebook and Instagram, the day after the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, for his role in inciting the violent riots. Initially, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the block would last “indefinitely,” however Meta’s oversight board contested that decision, and mandated that a timeline for revaluation be imposed.
In June of 2021, the company complied with the board’s request and declared that, at the end of the two years, it would “look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.”
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In the wake of Jan. 6, YouTube also instituted a ban on Trump. And so did Twitter, where the former president seemed to spend the bulk of his online time. Notably, in contrast to Meta, Twitter’s ban is permanent (assuming Elon Musk doesn’t complete his acquisition). After the tech giants announced their prohibition on Trump, he responded with a lawsuit and then by creating Truth Social, his own “free speech” platform.
Trump has been widely criticized for his rabid social media use while in office. Often his tweets and posts propagated disinformation. However, for Clegg and Meta, the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of Trump’s posts isn’t the issue, so much as the potential impact of those posts. “If we think there is content on our platform which will lead to real-world harm — physical harm — then we feel we have a clear responsibility to act against it.” Clegg reiterated at the event on Thursday.
If Trump is allowed back on Facebook and Instagram, it would grant him access to a much larger social media audience in time for the the 2024 presidential race.