Facebook said Friday that it will ban former President Donald Trump until at least 2023 — drawing new outrage as momentum grows to regulate social media platforms.
The decision means that Trump might still be able to regain access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts in time for the 2024 campaign if he seeks a rematch against President Biden.
But Facebook said it may decide to ban Trump even longer than the two years.
Former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who works as Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said, “At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.”
“We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest,” Clegg wrote. “If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”
Trump fired back in a statement Friday, accusing Facebook of “censoring and silencing” his political movement.
“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said. “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!”
And he later snarked: “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!”
Trump’s account was suspended by Facebook on Jan. 7 following the Capitol riot that disrupted certification of President Biden’s victory. But conservatives accuse tech giants — including Twitter, which permanently banned Trump — of a double standard, pointing out that Democrats including Hillary Clinton also challenged the validity of past election results.
The two-year ban on Trump’s account would end on Jan. 7, 2023, at the earliest, meaning he could use the platform to engage with voters in the next presidential election. But Republicans in Congress said they are outraged by the latest announcement.
“Americans are sick and tired of Big Tech’s double standards,” said Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.).
“Woke cancel culture strikes again, and the double standard couldn’t be more evident. When will Facebook ban Chinese Communist Party propagandists who have been covering up COVID-19’s origins and the genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang?”
Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said, “If Facebook is worried about threats to public wellbeing on their platform, they should ban [Dr. Anthony] Fauci, not Trump.”
“At this point, Big Tech is a tool of the Democrat party, and we all know Democrats will do anything to suppress Trump voters and ensure they don’t come out to vote in the midterm elections. That’s why they’ve announced this suspension will last until 2023, once again meddling in our elections,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said.
Clegg said in his Friday statement that the two-year ban on Trump was decided upon after a Facebook review board last month upheld the suspension but criticized it for being open-ended.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols,” Clegg wrote. “We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.”
Republicans in Congress are pressing for the government to regulate social media companies, saying that censorship is politically biased and that the companies have too much power to steer political debate.
A rival proposal would force platforms like Facebook and Twitter to respect different political viewpoints by declaring them “common carriers,” a term that historically emerged for companies like railroads that were regulated to restrict discrimination.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) recently introduced the 21st Century FREE Speech Act, which would declare any “interactive computer service” with “more than 100,000,000 worldwide active monthly users” as a common carrier that could not discriminate by viewpoint. The bill also would mandate that they publish “accurate” moderation and account suspension information.
Members of both political parties in Congress historically supported reforms to laws governing Big Tech firms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter. For example, both President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) backed repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants immunity for most third-party online content.
Trump recently set up a new web platform for his statements. But this week he pulled the plug on the site, which allowed him to indirectly circumvent the Facebook and Twitter bans.
Social media platforms have faced invigorated calls for their regulation since Facebook and Twitter censored The Post’s reporting in October on documents from a laptop formerly belonging to Hunter Biden that appeared to implicate his father in business dealings in China and Ukraine.