Social media is rooted in the belief that open debate and the free flow of ideas are important values, especially at a time when they are under threat in many places around the world. As a general rule, we do not want to impede open, public, and democratic debate on Meta’s platforms, especially in the context of elections in democratic societies like the United States. The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying – the good, the bad and the ugly – so they can make informed choices at the ballot box. But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real-world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we take action.
Two years ago, we acted in extreme and very unusual circumstances. We have suspended then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely following his praise for those involved in the violence on Capitol Hill on January 6., 2021. We then referred this decision to the Supervisory Board – an expert body created to be an independent check and balance on our decision-making. The board upheld the decision but criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension and the lack of clear criteria for when and if suspended accounts will be reinstated, asking us to review the matter to determine a more proportionate response.
In response to the Commission, we imposed a time-limited suspension two years from the date of the initial suspension of January 7, 2021 — an unprecedented length of time for such a suspension. We have also clarified the circumstances under which accounts of public figures could be restricted in times of civil unrest and continued violenceand introduces a new Crisis policy protocol to guide our assessment of imminent harm risks on and off-platform so that we can respond with specific policies and product actions. In our response to the Oversight Council, we also indicated that before making a decision on whether to lift Mr. Trump’s suspension, we would assess whether the risk to public safety has diminished.
The suspension was an extraordinary decision taken in extraordinary circumstances. The normal situation is that the public should be able to hear a former president of the United States, and again a declared candidate for that office, on our platforms. Now that the period of suspension has expired, the question is not whether we choose to reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, but whether there remain extraordinary circumstances such as the extension of the suspension beyond the period. initial two years is warranted.
To assess whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021 has sufficiently receded, we assessed the current environment in accordance with our crisis policy protocol, which included reviewing the conduct of midterm elections in the states States in 2022, and expert assessments of the current security environment. Our determination is that the risk has receded sufficiently and therefore we must meet the two-year deadline that we have set. As such, we will be restoring Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we do so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offences.
Like any other Facebook or Instagram user, Mr. Trump is subject to our Community Standards. In light of his violations, he now also faces stiffer penalties for a repeat offense — penalties that will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated after civil unrest-related suspensions under our updated protocol. In the event that Mr. Trump posts further infringing content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for one month to two years, depending on the seriousness of the violation.
Our updated protocol also addresses content that does not violate our Community Standards but contributes to the type of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is QAnon-related. We may limit the distribution of these publications and, in repeated cases, temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools. This step would mean that the content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump. We may also remove the share button from these posts and prevent them from being recommended or served as advertisements. In the event that Mr. Trump posts content that violates the letter of the Community Standards but, under our newsworthy content policy, we believe it is in the public interest to know that Mr. Trump made the statement that outweighs any potential harm, we may also choose to restrict the dissemination of these messages but leave them viewable on the account of Mr. Trump. We are taking these actions in light of the Oversight Council’s focus on high-reach and influential users and its emphasis on the role of Meta “to create necessary and proportionate sanctions that address serious breaches of its content policies.”
There is significant debate about how social media companies should approach content posted on their platforms. A lot of people think that companies like Meta should remove a lot more content than we do right now. Others argue that our current policies already make us authoritarian censors. The thing is, people will always say all kinds of things on the internet. By default, we let people speak, even when what they have to say is unpleasant or wrong. Democracy is messy and people should be able to make their voices heard. We believe it is both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however unpleasant or inaccurate, is part of the routine of life in a free society. .
We publish our community standards publicly so everyone can see where we draw that line. Our policies sometimes need to be revisited and revised, as evidenced by the introduction of our Crisis Policy Protocol and the additional items announced today. We’re highlighting these rules today because we anticipate that if Mr. Trump chooses to resume his activities on our platforms, many people will ask us to take action against his account and the content he posts, while many more will upset if he is suspended. again, or if some of its content is not broadcast on our platforms. We want to be as clear as possible about our policies, so that even in cases where people will disagree with us, they still understand the rationale for our responses.
We know that any decision we make on this issue will be heavily criticized. Reasonable people will disagree on whether this is the right decision. But a decision had to be made, so we tried to make it as best we could in a way that was consistent with our values and the process we established in response to guidance from the Oversight Board.