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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Meta restored the Facebook and Instagram accounts of former President Donald Trump, stating that the accounts would be reinstated “in the coming weeks” but come with “new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Meta suspended Trump’s accounts on Jan. 7, 2021, after he posted comments that egged on his supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol. At the time, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Trump’s posts “incited violent insurrection against a democratically elected government” and that the company believed “there is a serious risk of ongoing violence.” Meta initially suspended Trump’s accounts for 24 hours, but later extended the suspension indefinitely and then changed it to a two-year period. 

Since then, Trump has continued to spread disinformation about his 2020-election loss. He’s also spread other conspiracy theories while promoting anti-democratic beliefs shared by neo-Nazis, authoritarians and other white nationalists. Facebook and Instagram have policies in place that allow certain types of speech by politicians to be exempt from their Community Standards, which Meta claims to apply to everyone else on the platforms.

Last week, the Change the Terms coalition, representing more than five-dozen civil-rights, human-rights, tech-policy and consumer-protection organizations, sent a letter urging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to heed the dire warnings in a draft report from the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack and permanently ban Trump from Facebook. The draft report drew a strong connection between Trump’s posts in social media and political violence offline.

Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González, who co-chairs the Change the Terms coalition, said:

“Meta is moving backwards, returning us to a time when Donald Trump used the company’s powerful tools to spread lies and dangerous rhetoric, and incite violence targeted at disenfranchised communities and his ideological enemies.

“Before being suspended, Trump repeatedly violated Meta’s rules. He spread the Big Lie about the 2020 election result, amplified COVID-19 disinformation and attacked the media and anyone who disagreed with him. His campaign spread racist tropes about immigrants and Black Lives Matter protesters by buying bigoted ad placements on the platform. And, of course, he posted incitements that spurred his followers to attack the Capitol on January 6. Basic fairness would dictate that Trump play by the same rules as the rest of us. Yet fairness is not on Meta’s agenda.

“Meta still has a chance to reverse course. It should make Trump’s suspension permanent and stop exempting other world leaders and prominent politicians who inflame hate, incite violence and spread anti-democratic lies. 

“The Change the Terms coalition has mapped a path forward for Meta and other social-media giants. This includes adopting and enforcing model policies to reduce hate and disinformation online and prevent actual violence in the real world. 

“No Meta user should be allowed to use the company’s services to engage in or facilitate hateful activities. The platform must provide a well-resourced enforcement mechanism that combines technological solutions with staff responsible for ensuring that toxic hate and disinformation are not present in any language or in any country where the company does business. 

“These and other recommendations are at the core of Change the Terms' work. If Meta continues to ignore our recommendations, the impact will be felt most sharply by communities of color, political dissidents, journalists and other threatened groups and individuals that are too often on the receiving end of hate from Trump and anti-democracy authoritarians and white supremacists like him. Meta must bear full responsibility for any harm that results from today’s extremely reckless decision.”

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