Donald Trump is back on Facebook – here are the rules he must follow

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For a company that seeks to host — and police — human speech around the world, one of Meta’s biggest challenges is a single user: Donald Trump.

The Facebook and Instagram accounts of the former president will be reinstated in the coming weeks, parent company Meta Platforms Inc. announced Wednesday, setting the platforms up for a very public and high-stakes test as he runs for office again next year.

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Trump will be subject to “heightened penalties for repeat offenses,” Meta’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said Wednesday.

While those policies would apply to any public figure reinstated after civil unrest, Trump is currently the only person in that category.

To deter multiple violations, Meta’s strike system as punishment for posting prohibited content like hate speech and incitements to violence will be escalated for Trump.

Whereas most users get as many as five strikes before a 30-day restriction from interacting on the platforms, that penalty would be triggered with just one offense by the former president.

More serious violations could result in another two-year suspension.

The policy Clegg cited was formulated after Trump’s suspension in 2021 and updated Wednesday. The company describes public figures as elected officials, candidates and newsworthy accounts with more than a million followers — people whose content poses a “greater risk of harm” because of their influence.

Because Trump has already declared his candidacy for president in 2024, he won’t be subject to fact-checking, according to Meta’s policy for politicians. However, any of Trump’s posts that play into the kind of unrest that preceded the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, “such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon,” according to Clegg, could face limitations on being shared on Facebook and Instragram.

Several social media platforms suspended Trump’s accounts two years ago after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying his electoral loss to Joe Biden.

Meta at the time said Trump’s posts praised people engaged in violence, posing a risk to public safety.

That decision went before Meta’s Oversight Board, an unofficial tribunal paid by the company but outside its corporate hierarchy that issues non-binding opinions.

The board agreed with the move to suspend Trump’s accounts but said the indefinite freeze was arbitrary and should be revisited.

Designing appropriate content moderation and consequences for violations has bedeviled Facebook for more than a decade.

Republicans accuse the platform of being biased against those on the right, but internal company documents released by a whistle-blower in 2021 revealed that the company often bent its own rules to avoid punishing prominent conservatives for violations.

One-strike penalty

Meta applies strikes to user accounts for each post that violates community guidelines, leading to an escalating length of suspension, according to the company’s publicly posted rules. For most users, one strike will get them just a warning, while five strikes would result in a 30-day restriction from posting or engaging with other content.

Trump would be subject to the more accelerated scale of consequences for just one strike, according to Clegg.

Meta’s community guidelines include categories of violations such as Violence and Incitement, Fraud and Deception, Human Exploitation and Hate Speech.

Most categories describe examples of content that aren’t allowed, including specific slurs associated with ethnic groups and concepts or words that are prohibited in that context. The categories also include kinds of posts that require additional information or context to judge.

There are, however, some exceptions. A post determined to be satire won’t draw the same consequences. Some posts that are deemed newsworthy won’t be removed “if keeping it visible is in the public interest, according to Meta’s public statements.

Meta has also declined to fact-check politicians under the newsworthiness exemption, claiming that the social media platform does not want to enter the business of intervening when lawmakers and policymakers speak.

Meta has confirmed that Trump, as a 2024 candidate, won’t be subject to fact-checking on its platforms.

Twitter suspension lifted

The former president’s suspension by Twitter Inc. was lifted last year after Elon Musk, who bought the platform in October, polled his followers on whether to allow him back.

Trump has not yet tweeted, and he continues to post on his own Truth Social platform.

It’s unclear if or when Trump plans to use his newly restored Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Trump on Wednesday posted on Truth Social to blame Meta’s recent plunge in market value on his suspension and said “such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!”

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