(NEW YORK)—On Wednesday, Meta announced that in the coming weeks it will lift the suspension of former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, stating: “Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out.” The parent company of Facebook also outlined some of the steps it has taken to put in place new policies on allowable use of the platform. The guardrails, per Meta, are meant to ensure that future incidents echoing Trump’s use of the site on January 6, 2021, in which he praised Capitol rioters and encouraged their assault on democracy, will result in swift penalties such as downranking, demonetization, removal of content, or suspension. 

“Meta’s decision to end its suspension of former President Trump from its platforms appears to be based on a reasoned weighing of current threats and the value of public access to the views and positions of politicians and other public figures. The real question will be how Meta implements and enforces its new guardrails,” said Liz Woolery, PEN America’s Digital Policy Lead. “As PEN America has emphasized, transparency about Meta’s policies concerning public figures–and consistency in the application of those policies–is critical to maintaining and fostering online spaces for public debate, building public confidence in the platform, and ensuring Meta is able to appropriately navigate crises and times of civil unrest and violence.” 

Woolery stated, “The measures Meta has announced Wednesday are a first step toward a consistent and coherent standard for public figures using its platforms. Facebook and other platforms should continue to refine and hone their approaches to these difficult policy questions transparently and while adhering to free expression principles.”

Following the January 6 riots, Meta indefinitely suspended Trump’s accounts, finding that he had “actively foment[ed] a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power.” The Oversight Board. the independent body initially established by Facebook to review thorny questions related to online expression, reviewed the case and agreed that the account suspensions were appropriate. However, the board criticized their indefinite nature; Meta responded by setting at least a two-year suspension for Trump and saying the decision would be reviewed in January 2023.

NOTE: PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel became a member of the Meta Oversight Board in April 2021. She does not take part in preparing PEN America’s positions, statements, or briefs concerning the Oversight Board and/or Meta. PEN America Digital Policy Lead Liz Woolery is a former employee of Meta. For more on our conflicts of interest policy, see this statement

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057