Facebook has suspended President Donald Trump’s accounts for two years following a finding that Mr Trump stoked violence ahead of the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the platform announced on Friday.
At the end of the suspension, the company will assess whether Mr Trump’s “risk to public safety” has subsided, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post.
He said Facebook will take into account “external factors” such as instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest.
Facebook also announced that it would end a contentious policy that automatically exempted politicians from rules banning hate speech and abuse, and that it would stiffen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence.
The former president called Facebook’s decision on the suspension “an insult.” The two-year ban replaced a previous ruling that ordered Mr Trump to be suspended indefinitely.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!” Mr Trump said in a news release.
Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become indispensable tools for politicians to get their messages out and to raise small-dollar donations. Without the megaphone of Twitter and the targeted fundraising appeals his campaign mastered on Facebook, Mr Trump could be at a serious disadvantage relative to other politicians.
Mr Trump has teased running for president again in 2024. His aides say that he has been working on launching his own social media platform to compete with those that have booted him, but one has yet to materialise.
A blog he launched on his existing website earlier this year was shut down after less than a month. It attracted dismal traffic.
On Facebook, Mr Trump’s suspension means that his account is essentially frozen. Others can read and comment on past posts, but Mr Trump and other account handlers are unable to post new material.
Twitter, by contrast, has permanently banned Mr Trump from its service, and no trace of his account remains.
“What they’ve done here is shield themselves from potential presidential rage” with a reassessment of Mr Trump’s account in two years, said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University communications professor.
In a colour-coded chart on its blog post, the company said public figures who violate its policies during times of crisis can be restricted from posting for a month (yellow) or as long as two years (red). Future violations, it said, will be met with “heightened penalties, up to and including permanent removal.”
The policy that exempted politicians from rules on hate speech and abuse was once championed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The company said it never applied the policy to Mr Trump, but on Friday backtracked to say it did use it once, in 2019 for a video of a rally on his Facebook page.