Clegg’s comments were made at a Washington, D.C. event hosted by the digital news startup Semafor. They mark the first time Facebook has alluded to this possibility since Facebook’s Oversight Board forced the platform to commit to a timeline for the suspension.
The specter of Trump’s return to Facebook has been a known possibility for a while now. Facebook kicked the proverbial can down the road two years ago in order to give the company time to make a decision.
In May 2021, the Oversight Board, which makes recommendations concerning content moderation decisions on Facebook’s platform, took on the Trump case and upheld the suspension. It also said that Facebook needed to announce an outright ban of Trump’s account or provide a timeframe in which the suspension would be lifted. Since Jan. 7, 2021, Trump’s Facebook account has been viewable by users. However, neither Trump nor anyone else in his orbit has been able to access the account to post new content.
Facebook announced that Trump’s suspension would last for two years in June 2021. At the time, Facebook said that lifting the suspension would require an assessment on the risk to public safety and that the company would continue to block Trump’s access until that risk dissipated.
Clegg reiterated those concerns at the D.C. event, saying Facebook “will talk to experts, weigh the risk of real world harm and act proportionally.”
Lifting the suspension in January of next year would mean Trump wouldn’t be able to post for the midterm elections, but would be back on the social media network in time for his own potential presidential campaign for the 2024 election.
Since the events of January 6, other social media companies have also suspended Trump from their platforms. Twitter banned Trump permanently after the insurrection attempt. (Although, Elon Musk has said he would reverse Trump’s ban if he was actually to go through with acquiring Twitter.) YouTube took a Facebook-like approach and has suspended Trump until the “risk of violence decreased.” To date, Trump is still unable to access his YouTube account.
These platforms’ actions eventually led the former president to create his own conservative social network called Truth Social, where he currently has 4 million followers. For comparison, Trump currently has more than 34 million followers on his still-suspended Facebook page.
In recent months, Trump has increasingly shared more and more content on Truth Social related to the far-right-wing conspiracy group, QAnon. Facebook banned this type of content in 2020.
Will Facebook continue Trump’s suspension? Will his recent online activity play a role in such a decision? Or has Facebook reached the point where it feels it can’t keep kicking that can? According to Clegg, we will soon find out.