If former President Donald Trump decides to use his newly reinstated Facebook and Instagram accounts he will be free to post election conspiracy theories and QAnon content without the likelihood of his account being banned again.
Meta announced on Wednesday its controversial decision to allow Trump back onto the company’s platforms, where his various accounts have tens of millions of followers. Meta banned Trump over two years ago for posting a video to his account during the attack on the Capitol where he boosted wild conspiracy theories, praised violent insurrectionists. The video “contribute[d] to rather than diminish[ing] the risk of ongoing violence,” the company said at the time.
In a blog post, Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg said that Trump’s accounts will be reactivated in the coming weeks, but warned that they would come with “with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”
But those guardrails won’t be very restrictive.
Trump will be allowed to continue to share the same baseless claims he has been making about the 2020 election being stolen from him for the last two years, the company told CNN.
When it comes to other controversial topics, like casting doubt on the integrity of the 2024 election or sharing QAnon content, Meta says that it will take some action, but it won’t remove the offending posts or restrict Trump’s ability to post new updates.
Instead it “may” limit who can see the posts or share them, and it “may” prevent Trump from using the company’s advertising products to boost those posts—but only if Trump repeatedly breaches these “guardrails.”
The watered-down restrictions Meta has put in place around Trump’s return has angered many activists who point to his track record in the last two years of sharing dangerous disinformation in TV interviews and on his own Truth Social platform.
“This is a man who used Facebook to incite a deadly insurrection against the United States—and whose behavior has only gotten more dangerous in the years since,” Nicole Gill, co-founder of activist group Accountable Tech, told VICE News in an emailed statement.
“Trump has repeatedly used Truth Social to fuel violence, spread election lies, and promote domestic terrorist organizations like QAnon. Free speech doesn’t guarantee the privilege of a Facebook log-in—especially for someone who tried to overthrow the government.” The FBI designated QAnon as a domestic terror organization in 2019.
Trump has promoted QAnon content hundreds of times on Truth Social since he began posting there last summer, and in the week after the 2022 midterm elections, nearly half of his posts on the platform amplified QAnon-promoting accounts or pushed election misinformation, according to analysis by media watchdog group Media Matters.
“Trump has built a tinderbox of civil unrest. Today, Mark Zuckerberg handed him back the match,” Gill said.
Facebook first banned QAnon back in October 2020 after repeated calls from researchers who track the movement. At the time the company labeled QAnon a “militarized social movement.”
Meta told VICE News that its policy on QAnon means that it “removes pages, groups and Instagram accounts that represent QAnon when we identify them and disable the profiles who admin them,” meaning that simply posting QAnon content is not enough to for a regular user to violate the company’s Community Standards.
The company also claimed that its updated protocols for public figures whose accounts have been reinstated, like Trump, mean they face harsher restrictions on QAnon content, though the company will not go so far as removing the offending content.
While Trump has professed his desire to remain on Truth Social, there is little doubt that he will return to Facebook and Instagram as he begins his campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination in earnest; he has just 5 million followers on Truth Social, compared to a combined 57 million followers on Facebook and Instagram.
Trump has also recently had his Twitter account reinstated but he has yet to post a message to his 87 million followers.
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