Meta said the suspensions of Donald Trump’s accounts would be lifted “in the coming weeks,” with measures in place to discourage repeat offenses. Twitter reinstated Mr. Trump last year.
Just over two years after Donald J. Trump’s accounts were suspended from Facebook and Instagram, Meta, the owner of the platforms, said on Wednesday that it would reinstate the former president’s access to the social media services.
Mr. Trump, who had the most followed account on Facebook when he was barred, will “in the coming weeks” regain access to his accounts that collectively had hundreds of millions of followers, Meta said. In November, Mr. Trump’s account was also reinstated on Twitter, which had barred him since January 2021, collectively giving the former president more of a megaphone as he campaigns for the White House in 2024.
Meta suspended Mr. Trump from its platforms on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after hundreds of people stormed the Capitol in his name, saying his posts ran the risk of inciting more violence. Mr. Trump’s accounts on other mainstream social media services, including YouTube and Twitter, were also removed that week.
But Meta, which critics have accused of censoring Mr. Trump and other conservative voices, said on Wednesday it had decided to reverse the bans because it had determined that the risk to public safety had “sufficiently receded” since January 2021. The company added that it would add guardrails to “deter repeat offenses” in the future.
“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” said Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs. “But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform.”
In a post on the right-wing social network Truth Social, Mr. Trump said a “deplatforming” should “never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving retribution!”
Meta has been at the center of a debate over free speech online and who should have the power to decide what can be posted and what needs to be removed. The banning of Mr. Trump’s accounts was a stark demonstration of the clout of social media platforms and whether they have too much control and influence over public discourse online.
The coming reinstatement of Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was immediately criticized by Democratic lawmakers and misinformation experts, who said the move would allow the former president to spread divisive and inflammatory posts.
“The Capitol community is still picking up the pieces from the Jan. 6 insurrection that Trump ignited, and now he is returning to the virtual scene of the crime,” Representative Jan Schakowsky, a chief deputy whip and a Democrat of Illinois, said in an email statement.
But Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Meta’s decision was “the right call” because Mr. Trump is a leading political figure and the public is interested in hearing him speak. “While the government cannot force platforms to carry certain speech, that doesn’t mean the largest platforms should engage in political censorship,” Mr. Romero said.
It is unclear whether Mr. Trump, who said in November that he was seeking the White House again in 2024, will again become active on Facebook and Instagram. He started Truth Social, in which he has a financial stake and where he is obligated to make his posts available exclusively for six hours before he can share them on other sites, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Trump can post to any site immediately if the messages pertain to political messaging, fund-raising or get-out-the-vote initiatives.
Mr. Trump has not posted on Twitter since the platform reinstated him in November. Truth Social is currently the only social network on which Mr. Trump is active. YouTube has not said whether it will allow the former president back on the platform.
Truth Social and YouTube didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a post on Meta’s blog on Wednesday, Mr. Clegg said the company’s executives preferred to err on the side of allowing more speech across Facebook and Instagram rather than less, even when the posts were “distasteful or factually wrong.”
But Meta is taking steps to prevent future incidents, Mr. Clegg said. Mr. Trump could be subject to another ban for “between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” Mr. Clegg said.
Meta is considering putting other measures in place against those who may not explicitly violate its rules but who contribute to “the sort of risk that materialized on January 6,” Mr. Clegg said. Posts that delegitimize elections or that are related to the conspiracy theory QAnon, for instance, may be “down-ranked” on Facebook and Instagram feeds, meaning they will be pushed down and become less visible.