Meta’s Rationale for Letting Trump Back on Facebook Couldn’t Be More Dumb


Before Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November, he pulled a stunt that’s more common in reality television than online content moderation, granting his fans the power to vote Trump back onto one of the most popular internet islands. While the poll was comically unscientific, it still allowed Musk to sell the move as democratic in a most homespun fashion.

But Meta, a far more self-serious institution than the Musk-led Twitter, somehow came up with an even more ridiculous rationale for reinstating Trump, who was suspended from Facebook and Instagram shortly after the Capitol riot.

In a 1,158-word blog post Wednesday, which opened with musings on “open debate and the free flow of ideas,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of global affairs, painted the suspension as a temporary punishment for someone who no longer presents the same danger to society. Consider the fine print of Trump’s return, which is a set of toothless yet absurdly specific probationary rules: He will, according to CNN, be allowed to spread false claims about the 2020 election without consequence but will be lightly penalized if he uses Meta platforms to cast doubt on upcoming elections, including the 2024 presidential race.

“We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools,” wrote Clegg, referencing posts that do not violate Meta’s community standards but still contribute to the “risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.” It’s worth noting that Clegg’s comments appear to run counter to a prior crackdown on QAnon content. (“Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups, and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon,” the company said in October 2020, attempting to prove that it was combating the hordes of QAnon posters radicalized on Facebook.) It also seems unlikely that Trump, whose accounts will be reactivated in the coming weeks, will be willing or able to meet these parole conditions; after launching Truth Social in 2021, he used the platform to repeatedly cast doubt on the results of midterm races and shared dozens of QAnon-amplifying posts.

That recent history notwithstanding, Clegg stated that “the risk”—or the potential for violence posed by Trump’s Facebook account—“has sufficiently receded,” and “we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out.” He also warned that Trump, a potential “repeat” offender, will face heightened penalties should he flout the community standards that all Meta users are supposedly held to, noting that any such infraction will trigger a suspension “for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation.”

Needless to say, Trump’s reinstatement could prove hugely beneficial to his presidential ambitions, given the demographic overlap between his base of supporters and Facebook’s most active domestic users. Not to mention the fact that Facebook—not Twitter—is the platform major campaigns like Trump’s rely on for fundraising and advertising, which are inarguably key to any presidential bid.

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