POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Facebook considering whether to allow Trump to return, decision expected in ‘coming weeks’

Jan 3, 2023, 5:00 AM
Facebook’s parent company Meta is considering whether to allow former President Donald Trump, pic...
Facebook’s parent company Meta is considering whether to allow former President Donald Trump, pictured, in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 31, 2022 back on to its platforms and is due to announce its decision in the coming weeks, a company spokesperson told CNN.. Photo credit: Marco Bello/Reuters

 (CNN) — Facebook’s parent company Meta is considering whether to allow former President Donald Trump back on to its platforms and is due to announce its decision in the coming weeks, a company spokesperson told CNN on Monday.

The decision, likely to be one of the most consequential in the company’s history, is being considered by a specially formed internal company working group made up of leaders from different parts of the organization, a person familiar with the deliberations told CNN.

The group includes representatives from the company’s public policy, communications, content policy, and safety and integrity teams, the person said. Details of the working group were first reported by the Financial Times.

Trump was banned from Meta’s platforms Facebook and Instagram after the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021. Initially, the ban was indefinite, but that was later revised, and the company said it would consider allowing Trump back on the platforms after two years. Those two years elapse on Saturday, January 7, 2023.

The company is not expected to announce its decision on Saturday. Instead, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone told CNN on Monday that the announcement would occur “in the coming weeks.”

The decision to re-platform a former US president is being led by a former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said he is overseeing the decision. Clegg has risen through Meta’s ranks since joining the company in 2018, a year after he lost his seat in British Parliament.

Over the past year, Clegg has taken public responsibility for more of the company’s thorny political decisions, shielding the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who is said to be focusing more on developing the so-called metaverse.

Meta initially said Trump was suspended from its platforms due to his praise for people engaged in violence at the US Capitol. In a blog post in June 2021, Clegg explained how the company would consider allowing Trump back on its platforms.

“If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded,” Clegg wrote.

If Trump’s accounts are restored, he could once again have them revoked if he breaks the platforms’ rules, Clegg warned. “When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts,” he wrote.

A return to Meta could be a potential boon for Trump’s 2024 election campaign. Trump has 34 million followers on Facebook and 23 million followers on Instagram. Previous Trump campaigns have lauded the effectiveness of Facebook’s targeted advertising tools and have spent millions running Facebook ads.

A return would also signal a shift in Silicon Valley’s relationship with the former president. Trump had also been banned from Twitter but his account was reinstated in November by that company’s new owner, Elon Musk.

Trump has yet to post on Twitter after the reinstatement, instead continuing to post on his own social media platform, Truth Social. It remains unclear whether Trump simultaneously posting on mainstream platforms would violate his agreements with Truth Social’s parent company.

Last month, two Democratic lawmakers urged Meta to maintain Trump’s suspension from its platforms, arguing that the former president’s recent posts on Truth Social suggest he is likely to violate the social media giant’s policies if given a chance.

“For Meta to credibly maintain a legitimate election integrity policy, it is essential that your company maintain its platform ban on former president Trump,” California Rep. Adam Schiff and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wrote in a letter. “Based on Meta’s own statement on standards for allowing Trump back on the platform, his account should continue to be restricted.”

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Facebook considering whether to allow Trump to return, decision expected in ‘coming weeks’