Meta’s announcement that former President Donald Trump‘s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be reinstated has been denounced by those who say the decision is a victory for “extremism” and online hate.
Trump was suspended from multiple social media platforms in the wake of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. His Facebook and Instagram accounts were initially banned for two weeks, with the suspensions later extended to two years. On Wednesday, Meta said that Trump’s accounts would be returning to the platforms “in the coming weeks.”
Meta’s move came two months after Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s account on Twitter. The former president, who was a prolific Twitter user prior to his “permanent” ban in January 2021, has not returned to actively using the platform. It is unclear whether he will return to Facebook or Instagram, although he has remained active on his own Truth Social network.
Critics of the former president quickly blasted the resurrection of his Facebook and Instagram accounts as an invitation for misinformation and hateful rhetoric to be spread on the platforms. Some progressive groups warned that Trump’s return could inspire a new explosion of “extremism” on Facebook and Instagram.
“By allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refueling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine,” Angelo Carusone, president of progressive watchdog Media Matters for America, said in a statement obtained by Newsweek.
“The company knows he will turn Facebook and Instagram into a cesspool of hate, violence, and extremism—but it doesn’t care,” he continued. “Facebook is a dying platform, and Meta will do anything to cling to relevance and revenue—even if that means endangering its users and our democracy.”
The Jewish Democratic Council of America said on Twitter that Meta’s decision was “amplifying a direct threat to the future of our democracy.”
“This irresponsible decision emphasizes the importance of our work combating right-wing extremism,” the group tweeted.
“Donald Trump’s longstanding history of using social media platforms to amplify lies and misinformation and incite hate and violence makes his return to Facebook and Instagram dangerous for every single American,” tweeted Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD.
“Last year, Facebook flagged our Jan 6 video as ‘false information,'” progressive consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted. “Trump using stolen election lies to incite an insurrection is a fact. Now, it’s letting Trump back on the platform. Facebook never cared about the truth. It only cares about appeasing extremists.”
Meta, anticipating that the decision to bring Trump back would come with criticism, defended the move in a statement from Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs.
Clegg argued that the reinstatements were justified because “the risk” from Trump being active on the platforms had “sufficiently receded.” He added that Trump would be subject to “new guardrails” to “deter future offenses” if he does return to the platform.
“Meta says the risk posed by Donald Trump has ‘sufficiently receded,'” tweeted Noah Bookbinder, president and CEO of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “In what world? He is still posting lies and misinformation and vitriol on social media. He has never disavowed his attempt to overturn an election. This is beyond unacceptable.”
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California also denounced the decision, calling Trump’s potential impending return to Facebook “dangerous.”
“Trump incited an insurrection,” Schiff tweeted. “And tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power. He’s shown no remorse. No contrition. Giving him back access to a social media platform to spread his lies and demagoguery is dangerous. @Facebook caved, giving him a platform to do more harm.”
Change the Terms—a coalition of more than 60 civil rights, human rights, technology policy and consumer protection groups—sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to permanently ban Trump last week.
Jessica González, the coalition’s co-chair, said in a statement obtained by Newsweek that the ban reversal on Wednesday was an “extremely reckless decision” by Meta.
“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,” González said.
“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,” she added.
Evan Greer, director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, called Trump’s reinstatement to the Meta platforms a “huge distraction,” arguing that those most impacted by social media de-platforming and moderation overreach are instead Arab and Muslim people, sex workers, abortion rights advocates and the LGBTQ community.
“By allowing the former president to remain the center of attention in world-changing debates about content regulation, free speech, and the harms of Big Tech, we’re helping him accomplish his vile goals of silencing and oppressing the most vulnerable,” Greer said in a statement obtained by Newsweek.
“Passing a privacy law would do way more to slow the viral spread of hateful content and disinformation than keeping Trump off of any specific platform,” she added. “Enacting antitrust reforms would do far more to protect our democracy from Trump and his ilk than banning any one account.”
Newsweek has reached out to Meta for comment.