Meta Platforms said on Wednesday (Jan 25) it will restore former US President Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks, following a two-year suspension after the deadly Capitol Hill riot on Jan 6, 2021.
Trump announced in November he will make another run for the White House in 2024. Trump has 34 million followers on Facebook and 23 million on Instagram, platforms that are key vehicles for political outreach and fundraising.
The social media company said in a blog post it has "put new guardrails in place to deter repeat offences".
"In the event that Mr Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation," wrote Nick Clegg, Meta's president of global affairs, in the blog post.
The decision to ban Trump was a polarising one for Meta, the world's biggest social media company, which prior to the Trump suspension had never blocked the account of a sitting head of state for violating its content rules.
The company indefinitely revoked Trump's access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts after removing two of his posts during the Capitol Hill violence, including a video in which he reiterated his false claim of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
It then referred the case to its independent oversight board, which ruled that the suspension was justified but its indeterminate nature was not. In response, Meta said it would revisit the suspension two years after it began.
Meta's blog post Wednesday suggested it may reactivate other suspended accounts, including those penalised for their involvement in civil unrest. The company said those reinstated accounts would be subject to more stringent review and penalties for violations.
Whether, and how, Trump will seize upon the opportunity to return to Facebook and Instagram is unclear.
In November he regained access to Twitter, his once-favoured online megaphone. Trump has not sent any new tweets since regaining his account on the platform, saying he would prefer to stick with his own app Truth Social. But his campaign spokesman told Fox News Digital last week that being back on Facebook "will be an important tool for the 2024 campaign to reach voters".
In a post on Truth Social, Trump responded to his reinstatement on Meta apps and said "Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!" He did not indicate if or when he would begin posting on Meta platforms again.
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat who previously chaired the House Intelligence Committee, criticised the decision to reinstate him.
"Trump incited an insurrection," Schiff wrote on Twitter. "Giving him back access to a social media platform to spread his lies and demagoguery is dangerous."