In the grand scheme of things, while this may be punitive and rather small, symbolically, the reinstatement of former President Donal Trump’s Social Media privileges is significant and may have huge implications, at least for US politics. Meta recently announced that Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook and Instagram after being banned on both for his post concerning the January 6th Capitol Riots back in 2021.
As per Meta:
“Two years ago, we took action in what were extreme and highly unusual circumstances. We indefinitely suspended then-US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. We then referred that decision to the Oversight Board — an expert body established to be an independent check and balance on our decision-making.”
Meta’s Oversight Board, in response, called for the company to implement more structured parameters on how such decisions are made, and how long the resulting suspensions would be. On this note, Meta announced a two-year end date for the suspension, followed by a review to assess the risk of reinstatement.
Apparently, Trump’s team has been pushing for this in recent weeks. Focusing on the 2024 Presidential Campaign, Team Trump requested that he be allowed back on the platform to give him an equal share of political voice. Whether or not that influenced Meta’s decision is unclear, but now, Trump and Co. can once again reach millions of US voters through his Facebook page and paid ads.
That’s already pretty significant in itself. But, as noted, it’s not clear yet as to whether the process has seen Meta establish more definitive guidelines for handling similar situations in the future, along with what penalties infractions would receive. Also noted by the Board, Meta has updated its approach to such situations; in a new protocol overview about dealing with posts from public figures during times of civil unrest, Meta says that any repeated offenses, for Trump specifically, will face ‘heightened penalties’.
The parameters around its decisions as to what constitutes public risk still remain very hazy, which leaves such decisions to Meta’s management, still appearing as a form of political censorship, depending on the case. Ideally, Meta would like such decisions to be overseen by a higher regulatory body, but given the challenges and complexity of the required optimal setup, that’s currently a near-impossible proposition. As such, Meta is left to implement its own rules around what it constitutes as ‘harmful’ in this context, which it won’t always get right.
So, will Trump be back on Facebook? It certainly looks that way, though we can’t really speak for him with regard to how direct and visible he’ll really be. Trump was also reinstated back on Twitter, but he’s not really made noise over there, too. Trump has over 34 million followers on Facebook, so you can bet that he’s already strategizing his next Facebook ads push. What does this mean for everyone? Well, as Meta currently touts – we should be able to judge for ourselves.