Former President Trump will need to adjust his social media style if he wants to keep his newly restored Facebook and Instagram accounts.
A number of the 2024 presidential candidate’s posts on his Truth Social platform would run afoul of Meta, which has stricter content enforcement and set guardrails for his reinstatement.
One opponent of the reinstatement described this situation as a “landmine” for Meta.
Trump was suspended from Twitter and Facebook roughly two years ago in the wake of posts about the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol that officials said incited violence. Since then, Trump has been posting a mix of his own commentary and sharing content from supportive accounts on Truth Social, a social media platform he helped create.
But a quick scan of his Truth Social account shows he often dabbles in the kind of content that got him in trouble on other platforms.
In the last week alone, Trump has called for the arrest of a journalist and publisher who reported a leaked Supreme Court opinion draft; levied racist attacks against Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and claimed the 2020 election was stolen.
Earlier this month, he repeated a debunked conspiracy implicating Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman, who testified before Congress last year that she’s endured harassment because of such claims.
Trump has in the past also shared photos and posts that directly referenced the QAnon conspiracy theory. In September, he reposted an image of himself wearing a “Q” lapel pin and the words “The Storm is Coming,” both direct nods to QAnon.
“If his behavior [on Truth Social] is any indication, he will … be continually walking up to the line of violating platform rules about disseminating falsehoods on certain very important subjects, like the validity of democracy and the nature of a public health threat,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.
“The people in charge of trust and safety at Meta are going to have some very tough choices to make,” Barrett added.
As part of the new Meta guardrails, Trump could get suspended for one month to two years if he violates Facebook’s community standards, Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said in a Wednesday blog post.
Other content that doesn’t explicitly violate Meta’s community standards, like posts delegitimizing an upcoming election or content related to QAnon, could trigger Facebook to make his posts unshareable or restrict advertising tools, Clegg said.
The policy won’t just apply to Trump’s account; it is Meta’s new rule for additional penalties when a public figure is allowed to return to Facebook and Instagram after a suspension.
The case against Trump’s reinstatement
Angelo Carusone, president of the left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters for America, said the “fact that [Meta] had to create these guardrails in the first place is the biggest indicator that there’s a problem” with giving Trump access to his accounts.
“It illustrates to me that they kind of know that they’re walking into a landmine,” he added.
Media Matters was part of a coalition of advocacy groups and civil society organizations urging Meta to keep the ban on Trump in place. As part of the push, Media Matters highlighted posts on Truth Social that it said showcase why Trump still posed a threat if returned to Facebook.
A Media Matters analysis found nearly half of Trump’s posts on Truth Social in the week after the 2022 midterm election pushed election misinformation or amplified QAnon-promoting accounts.
Until June, Trump is contractually obligated to post content exclusively on Truth Social first for six hours.
Why Trump may return to Facebook: his campaign
One former Trump White House official told The Hill that while Trump would dictate or type out tweets, he did not have the same hands-on approach to Facebook. As a result, his staff may be able to more successfully moderate his tone on the platform if he rejoins.
It’s unclear when or if he will resume posting on Facebook. Trump told Fox News Digital last week that Facebook “needs us more than we need them,” though it was his team that had reached out about a possible return to the platform.
Facebook is arguably of more value to Trump and his presidential ambitions than Twitter, however. Trump in 2016 redefined how to aggressively use Facebook targeted ads to generate small dollar contributions, and being able to solicit donations on the site again could provide a boon to his 2024 campaign.
Facebook also gives Trump access to a wider user base than on Truth Social. Meta reported 1.9 billion daily active users in its most recent earnings report released in October, while Truth Social had an estimated 8.3 million visitors in November, according to data from SimilarWeb.
One way Trump may use Facebook, and to avoid getting caught by the new guardrails in place, is to post links to Truth Social posts with the violative content, Carusone said. The most valuable opportunity Facebook offers Trump is through fundraising and advertising. In those cases, it may not matter as much if Trump’s posts are first published on Truth Social.
But on Twitter, the main draw from Trump’s account before his 2021 ban was the ability to respond to events in real time and shape a media narrative.
With the Truth Social exclusive deal still in place, Trump has yet to return to Twitter, even after regaining access two months ago. Within a month of closing his deal to buy Twitter, CEO Elon Musk gave Trump and other previously banned users access to their platforms again.
“The president is still in a compromising position with the public, and he may lay low until closer to election,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor at Syracuse University with a focus on social media.
“If he comes back to these platforms it will be strategic, and he will be angling to be reelected,” Grygiel added.