SAN FRANCISCO: Meta Platforms Inc said on Wednesday it will reinstate former US president Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks, following a two-year suspension after the deadly Capitol Hill riot on Jan 6, 2021.
The restoration of his accounts could provide a boost to Trump, who announced in November he will make another run for the White House in 2024. He has 34 million followers on Facebook and 23 million on Instagram, platforms that are key vehicles for political outreach and fundraising.
“We will be reinstating Mr Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said in a statement, adding that the move would come with “new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”
The former reality TV star had spent weeks falsely claiming that the presidential election was stolen from him and he was subsequently impeached for inciting the riot.
It was not clear when or if Mr Trump will return to the platforms, and his representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the 76-year-old tycoon reacted in typically bullish fashion, crowing that Facebook had lost “billions of dollars in value” in his absence.
“Such a thing should never again happen to a
sitting president, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!“ he said on his Truth Social platform.
In a letter asking for the ban to be overturned, Mr Trump’s lawyer Scott Gast said last week that Meta had “dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse.”
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive director Anthony Romero said Meta was making “the right call” by allowing former president back onto the social network.
“Like it or not, Mr Trump is one of the country’s leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech,” Romero said in a release.
“Indeed, some of Mr Trump’s most offensive social media posts ended up being critical evidence in lawsuits filed against him and his administration.” The ACLU has filed more than 400 legal actions against Trump, according to Romero.
Advocacy groups such as Media Matters for America, however, vehemently oppose allowing Mr Trump to exploit Facebook’s social networking reach.
“Make no mistake – by allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refuelling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine,” said Media Matters president Angelo Carusone.
“This not only will have an impact on Instagram and Facebook users, but it also presents intensified threats to civil society and an existential threat to United States democracy as a whole.” A US congressional committee recommended in December that Mr Trump be prosecuted for his role in the US Capitol assault.
His Twitter account, which has 88 million followers, was also blocked after the riot, leaving him to communicate through Truth Social, where he has fewer than five million followers.
Mr Trump’s shock victory in 2016 was credited in part to his leverage of social media and his enormous digital reach.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2023
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