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Trump has not changed. But Facebook is giving it a second chance.

Meta is allowing its most controversial user, former President Donald Trump, to return to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook and Instagram, along with Twitter, YouTube and Snap, suspended Trump after the former president he praised the rioters as they stormed the capital on January 6, 2021. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained Trump’s suspension “indefinitely” at the time by saying had inappropriately used Facebook to incite “violent insurrection” against American democracy.

Two years later, Meta says Trump no longer poses an immediate risk to public safety. On Wednesday, she said she would end the suspension of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. Her decision follows last month’s Twitter call to lift his permanent ban on Trump.

“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 polls,” Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a company blog post. “But that doesn’t mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform.”

In the post, Clegg wrote that Meta determined that the public safety risk had “reduced sufficiently,” but that Meta would add new guardrails on future Trump posts if they contribute to the “type of risk that materialized on Jan. 6.” ”, such as posts delegitimizing an election or supporting QAnon. The new penalties include Meta limiting the reach of Trump’s posts in the Facebook feed, limiting access to advertising tools and removing the reshare button from offending posts. If Trump continues to violate Facebook’s rules, the company could re-suspend him for between one month and two years.

It is true that the United States is no longer in the midst of a power transition between presidents, nor is it under the nationwide pandemic lockdowns that had caused political frustration.

But one thing that He has not changed is Trump himself. The former president has not retracted any of his views against the election rioters said they inspired their own violence on January 6th. He continues to spread false claims that the The 2020 election was ‘rigged’ to attack local poll workers whose job it is to count ballots and promote conspiracy theories like QAnon. The belief of his supporters that the elections were stolen caused democracy expertsAnd about three out of five Americansto fear that there could be more violence during the 2024 presidential election.

If Trump does indeed reuse Facebook — which seems likely — every time he posts a campaign lie or veiled threat, or amplifies a dangerous QAnon theory, the company will have to decide whether that post violates its rules and what the consequences will be.

“People are going to scrutinize every single post Trump makes,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director and Republican political operative who now runs her own tech policy consultancy, Anchor Change. “Life will be hell” for platforms like Facebook if Trump returns, she added.

Meta would have done better to buckle up. During the Trump presidency, Facebook faced an employee revolta big boycott of advertisersand the political backlash of leader of the Democratic Party because of Trump’s posts on his platforms. The past two years since Trump’s ban have been a respite from having to minimize the public fallout on Trump’s posts.

Now Trump is Facebook’s problem again.

Why Trump may actually be returning to Facebook

For a while, it seemed that Trump would not return to mainstream social media even if given the chance. He’s had access to Twitter for a month but hasn’t tweeted yet.

This could be because he has a contractual obligation to post on his company’s social media app. Trump is legally required to publish first on Truth Social before cross-posting to other social media platforms (although there is a major exception for “political postings”), according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

But now Trump – who last month declared his candidacy for the presidency in 2024 – is reportedly trying to get out of his exclusive contract with Social Truth, e planning his comeback on both Twitter and Facebook. Last week, Trump’s legal team wrote a letter to Meta requesting a meeting with the firm’s leadership and urging the firm to lift its suspension.

While Twitter may be Trump’s platform of choice to garner media attention and share his unfiltered thoughts, Facebook is by far the most powerful social media app for running a political campaign. This is due to the sheer size of Facebook’s active user base – nearly 3 billion people – compared to more than 350 million on Twitter and 2 million on Truth Social.

“Every candidate must be where his constituents are. When it comes to digital campaigning, Facebook is the largest gathering in the country,” Republican digital campaign strategist Eric Wilson, who leads the Center for Campaign Innovation, told Recode.

Facebook is also a key fundraising mechanism for Trump. During Facebook’s suspension, he wasn’t allowed to run ads or raise money on the platform.

If and when Trump resumes posting on Facebook and Instagram, get ready to see more of what he shared on Truth Social: From April 28 to October 8, Trump shared 116 posts amplifying “QAnon followers and sympathizers” and 239 posts containing “harmful election-related disinformation,” according to the technology watchdog group Accountable Tech. He also made promotional comments Electoral fraud conspiracy theories which critics say encouraged the harassment of poll workers, like threats of hangings, firing squads, torture and bomb explosions.

“Trump’s rhetoric has only gotten worse” since she was suspended by Facebook, said Nicole Gill, president of Accountable Tech. “He is committed to doing it the ‘big lie’ and electoral denial.”

Last Thursday, Trump wrote in Truth Social, in part“The election was rigged and stollen, the unselected committee of hackers and political thugs refused to discuss it, and so on.”

Under Facebook’s rules, a post like the one above containing a claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent wouldn’t violate its rules because it’s a previous election, not a current one. But if Trump publishes something like this during the 2024 election, Facebook would face tough calls.

Questions abound about how Facebook will handle Trump the second time around

Now that Trump can return to Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s policies on political speech will attract renewed scrutiny.

Today, Facebook deals with political discourse in a nuanced way. While the company has rules against harmful speech such as disinformation about Covid-19 health or promoting dangerous groups, the company can issue a “newsability” exception. to allow a post if it determines it is in the public interest. In 2019 Clegg announced that the company will handle speeches by politicians as notable content “that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard,” but backed down on that policy in 2021 saying politicians’ content will no longer be automatically be considered noteworthy — though Facebook can still make exceptions for politicians on a case-by-case basis. The bar for Facebook to actually block a politician’s speech remains high: only if the content could cause real-world harm that outweighs the public interest in leaving it.

Wilson, the Republican digital strategist, argued that Facebook should be more permissive with political speech.

Once Facebook enforces language policies against a politician, Wilson says it opens the door for politicians to “work on the referees” and ask Facebook to suspend or limit opposing political speeches.

“It’s easier to say, ‘Oh, well, that’s the yardstick you used to keep Trump off the platform when he was a candidate. So let me give you five examples of where my opponent has crossed that line too,’” Wilson told Recode.

Other consultants and policy experts Recode spoke to, such as Casey Mattox, an attorney and free speech expert at the conservative libertarian political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, argued that Facebook should hold politicians to the same standards as everyone else. other. There should be one set of rules for everyone, and if anything, Facebook should pay Moreover beware of politicians, as their speech has more influence.

“I think they would be on better ground if [Meta] he basically said, “Look, these are the rules, and the president and everyone else is supposed to play by the same rules,” Mattox said.

One thing these advisors and pundits agreed on, regardless of what they think is the right approach: Facebook should be more transparent about how it enforces its policies when it comes to high-profile politicians like Trump.

“Does the decision matter to Meta in the context of, is it adhering to a set of rules that people can look at and see as neutral rules? [Rules] that they depend on basic standards, that do not vary according to political orientation?” said David Kaye, former United Nations expert on freedom of expression and professor of law at UC Irvine. “I think that’s the key.”

Meta has been criticized by its supervisory board – an independent group of academics, human rights experts and lawyers who advise the company on content decisions and policies – which needs to be clearer about its rules and enforcement of political discourse, especially after the Trump decision. In response Meta he said he will reveal when he makes exceptions to his rules for notable figures like Trump and has developed a “crisis policy protocol” for how he handles discourse during times of heightened Democratic violence.

But Meta still makes its decisions behind closed doors. In deciding on Trump’s reinstatement, Facebook reportedly created a special team of politicians, communications and other corporate executives, with Clegg, the company’s top politician, a former British politician, at the helm. The company also consulted with “external stakeholders” but did not share who they are.

If Facebook is truly transparent about Trump’s decisions, it would distinguish itself from Twitter, whose CEO and fairly new owner Elon Musk gave little explanation for bring back Trump plus Musk’s belief in free speech and the results of a 24-hour public poll Musk conducted on his Twitter page.

“Meta may be kind of a non-Musk here; they can really underscore the point that free speech on our platform generally isn’t just about a speaker’s right to say whatever they want,” Kaye said.

Regardless of how Facebook justifies Trump’s continued presence on its platform, it’s in for a wild ride. While today’s decision could be seen as the end of two years of uncertainty, in many ways it is just the beginning.

Former US President Donald Trump makes an announcement at his Florida home

Former US President Donald Trump. Joe Raedle/Getty Images