Former President Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook and Instagram
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The next time Donald Trump takes a selfie, he may, if he chooses, post it on Instagram.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Yeah. He can also use Facebook if he likes to, you know, comment on your mother-in-law's family news. Meta, the company that owns both platforms, says he may come back. They lifted the suspension imposed two years ago when Trump tried to overturn a democratic election.
INSKEEP: We do not know if the former president will come back to those platforms, but NPR's Shannon Bond has been asking why he is allowed. Shannon, good morning.
SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What is Meta's reasoning?
BOND: Well, essentially, it says time has passed. Things are different. Immediately after the Capitol insurrection, Meta thought the risk that Trump would incite more violence was just too high to let him keep posting. And remember, this wasn't just a move from Facebook and Instagram. He was also kicked off of Twitter and YouTube and Snapchat. It was really this unprecedented and controversial wave.
But then Facebook said it would reconsider its ban after two years. And that time is up. The company says it's gone through this process, reviewing its own policies and the larger environment, including how the midterm elections went. And it says it thinks the risk to public safety has, quote, "sufficiently receded." Facebook says it believes people should be able to hear what politicians have to say. But it also says Trump does have to follow its rules. And so it's going to put guardrails in place.
INSKEEP: What kind of guardrails do they mean?
BOND: Well, because of what happened in large part on January 6, Facebook has created a new set of policies specifically for public figures in times of civil unrest and violence. And that means if Trump continues to break the rules, he could face up to another two-year suspension. And given just how high-profile he is, these previous violations, Meta says they're going to watch very closely what he posts, even content that might be, you know, borderline.
INSKEEP: There might be a lot of people posting opinions about this decision regarding Donald Trump.
BOND: Yes. I mean, this is a decision that, like the decision to suspend him in the first place, is very controversial. You know, he has been - since being kicked off of mainstream social media, he's been posting on his own website, Truth Social, false claims of election fraud, Qanon conspiracy theories. And so Democratic politicians and civil rights organizations and advocacy groups are pointing to that and saying it shows he is still a big risk to public safety. Some also say this sets a dangerous precedent around the world, you know? There are far-right, authoritarian leaders who look to Trump and how he uses social media as a model. Trump, meanwhile, is taking a victory lap on Truth Social. He says this should never happen again to a sitting president. But the next question is, will he actually use Facebook again once he gets his account back in the coming weeks? You know, he was allowed back on Twitter back in November. But he has not been posting there. He's stuck to Truth Social.
INSKEEP: Well, help me understand - in this changing social media landscape, is it a powerful tool for a politician to be on Facebook at this point or to be denied it, for that matter?
BOND: Yeah. I mean, Facebook, it does not, probably, have the clout it did when Trump was banned. You know, things have changed. But what it's very important for is fundraising. And - right? - Trump is running for president again in 2024. That is going to be a really critical channel. In fact, his campaign formally petitioned Facebook to let him back on. You know, and I think, no matter how much he talks up Truth Social, which he helped create and financially backs, there, he has just a fraction of the reach he has on Facebook and Twitter. So it's hard to imagine there wouldn't be a very strong pull for him to return to these bigger platforms.
INSKEEP: NPR's Shannon Bond has enormous reach here on this platform. Shannon, thank you so much.
BOND: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.