Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, announced Friday that the company has cut short its “indefinite” ban on Trump, which was imposed after he used the platform to spread baseless claims of election fraud and incite the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
In its place, Facebook has implemented a conditional two-year ban.
Should Facebook determine Trump fit to return to the platform at the end of that ban, he’d be back just in time for the 2024 presidential election primaries. However, if “there is still a serious risk to public safety” at that time, Trump’s ban would be extended again, then reevaluated.
How Facebook intends to evaluate Trump’s risk to public safety isn’t exactly clear. Clegg said only that the decision would be based on “external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest.”
If Trump’s account were to be restored and he failed to meet the very basic demand of not posing a threat to public safety, Facebook said he would be met with “rapidly escalating sanctions,” including a potential permanent ban.
Trump greeted the development in characteristic fashion: with outright lies and a sprinkle of half-truths.
“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” he said in a statement. “They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”
Trump received 74,222,958 votes in the 2020 election, while President Joe Biden won with 81,283,098 votes. The election was not rigged. It’s unclear what “many others” the former president is referring to.
Although Trump often claims he has been censored and silenced, the fact that his statement on the matter is nevertheless being widely read greatly weakens his argument.
In a follow-up statement, he added, “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!”
Civil rights advocates condemned the diminished sentence. Madihha Ahussain, a senior policy adviser for nonprofit anti-discrimination organization Muslim Advocates, said too much was at stake for Trump’s ban to be loosened.
“Facebook’s decision to reinstate Donald Trump’s accounts just in time for the 2024 presidential election puts the public and our democracy in danger,” Ahussain said in an emailed statement. “Trump used Facebook to incite a deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol and spread outrageous conspiracies about the election that are still being used to undermine voting rights across the nation. A two-year time-out for that is a joke.”
Facebook’s decision on Trump follows its reversal on Thursday of its much-maligned, yet long-held, policy of exempting politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to everyone else. The policy gave politicians free rein to spread lies and post hate speech because Facebook deemed the content newsworthy.