Donald Trump has petitioned Meta to restore his access to Facebook, as he reportedly looks to shift his 2024 presidential campaign into a higher gear.
The former president was banned from Facebook more than two years ago, after his followers attacked the US Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to stop certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
In a letter to Meta obtained by NBC News on Wednesday, Trump advisers argued that the ban “dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse” and should be rescinded.
Meta said it would “announce a decision in the coming weeks”. Their verdict stems from a self-imposed deadline: while Trump’s ban was initially indefinite, the company later pledged to revisit his accounts in January 2023, two years after the suspension began. The company has reportedly set up an internal working group, bringing together senior figures across the organization, to debate the final decision.
Facebook and Twitter banned Trump a day after the January 6 attack, which has been linked to nine deaths including suicides among law enforcement.
Trump used his Twitter account to encourage supporters to gather near the Capitol. In a speech before the attack, he urged supporters to “fight like hell”. He then used Twitter to criticize his vice-president, Mike Pence, for not stopping certification while the attack was in progress.
A congressional committee recommended that Trump be criminally charged in connection with the attack, the fate of hundreds of his supporters.
Twitter lifted its ban on Trump after Elon Musk bought the platform last year. But Trump has not tweeted since, choosing to remain on his own rival social media service, Truth Social.
NBC quoted an anonymous Republican who said Trump had been bragging about eventually returning to Twitter and predicted the ex-president would do so.
Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter have 34 million and nearly 88 million followers respectively. On Truth Social, he has fewer than 5 million followers.
Trump used Twitter and Facebook extensively when he ran for the presidency in 2016 and throughout his time in office.
Impeached over the Capitol attack but acquitted, Trump announced his 2024 run in mid-November. In doing so he sought to take credit for Republicans winning back the US House in the midterm elections, though their majority was much narrower than expected and many candidates Trump endorsed suffered high-profile defeats.
Trump’s ban sparked fierce debate, with Republicans deriding the move as big tech censorship, while others said it was too little too late. Experts have said that the stakes for his potential return are high, considering his extremist rhetoric and propensity for spreading misinformation have only intensified since he left office.
“Trump’s behavior and language have gotten significantly worse and more extreme since he was first suspended from the Facebook platform,” said James Steyer, the founder and chief executive of online safety organization Common Sense Media. “Permitting him to return now would be a serious affront to our democracy and to Meta’s own publicly declared standards. The ban should be made permanent.”