Meta Platforms Inc. said Wednesday it would reinstate former U.S. President Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks after a two-year suspension following the deadly Capitol Hill brawl on January 6, 2021.
Trump said he would run again in November 2024 and may benefit from restoring his accounts. Political outreach and funding are facilitated by his 34 million Facebook and 23 million Instagram followers.
Trump hasn't posted on Twitter since new owner Elon Musk restored it in November.
Meta has been criticized for lax moderation, but free speech defenders argue political candidates' messages should be available to the public.
Meta blogged Wednesday that it had "put new guardrails in place to deter repeat offences."
"If Mr Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed, and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation," stated Meta's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, in the blog post.
Civil rights advocates slammed the likely verdict. "Facebook has policies, but they under-enforce them," said attorney Laura Murphy, who supervised a two-year Facebook audit that ended in 2020. "I worry about Facebook's capacity to understand the real world harm that Trump poses: Facebook has been too slow to act."
With Trump still claiming he won the 2020 presidential election, the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, Free Press, and other groups raised Wednesday's alarm about Facebook's ability to prevent future democratic process attacks.
Former ACLU official Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute, supported reinstatement. He previously supported the company's suspension of Trump's account.
"The public is interested in hearing directly from candidates for political office," Jaffer said. "It's better if the major social media platforms err on the side of leaving speech up, even if the speech is offensive or false, so that other users and other institutions can address it."
Meta, the world's largest social media firm, has never banned a sitting head of state before Trump's suspension.
After removing two of Trump's posts during the Capitol Hill incident, including a video in which he falsely claimed rampant voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, the firm indefinitely suspended his Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Then, an independent monitoring board decided that the suspension was acceptable, but its uncertain character was not. Meta promised to review the rest two years later.
Meta's Wednesday blog post hinted at reactivating additional suspended accounts, including civil unrest-related ones. The business said reinstated reports would be reviewed and penalized more strictly.
Trump may return on Facebook and Instagram, but how is unknown.
Since recovering his Twitter account, Trump has not tweeted, preferring to use Truth Social. His campaign spokeswoman told Fox News Digital last week that returning to Facebook "will be an important tool for the 2024 campaign to reach voters."
"Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President or anybody else who does not deserve retribution!" Trump wrote on Truth Social after his Meta app restoration. He didn't say when he'd post on Meta again.
Former House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff condemned the reinstatement.
"Trump incited an insurrection," Schiff tweeted. "Giving him back access to a social media platform to spread his lies and demagoguery is dangerous."