"Democracy is messy and people should be able to make their voices heard," Meta's President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a blog on the company's site. "We believe it is both necessary and possible to draw a line between content that is harmful and should be removed, and content that, however distasteful or inaccurate, is part of the rough and tumble of life in a free society."
Under the "updated protocol", QAnon content, election misinformation, and other potentially risky posts that don't violate Community Guidelines may see limited distribution.
"The fact is people will always say all kinds of things on the internet. We default to letting people speak, even when what they have to say is distasteful or factually wrong," Clegg wrote.
Posts covered by the new policy would remain visible on the user's account, but they will not appear in any follower Feeds, and the "reshare" button may also be removed. Risky posts also may not be "recommended or run as ads," and repeatedly posting risky content "may temporarily restrict" a user's access to the company's ad tools.
The company says it may choose to similarly limit the distribution of dangerous posts from Trump if they determine that "there is a public interest in knowing that Mr. Trump made the statement that outweighs any potential harm", meaning the posts would remain visible on Trump's account but not in users' Feeds.
"We are taking these steps in light of the Oversight Board's emphasis on high-reach and influential users and its emphasis on Meta's role 'to create necessary and proportionate penalties that respond to severe violations of its content policies,'" wrote Clegg.
Trump was banned in the aftermath of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Due to his praise of the insurrectionists, there were concerns that Trump would further incite his followers to violence, leading to his indefinite ban. This decision was later upheld by Meta's Oversight Board, though the board criticized the undefined length of the ban. In response, Meta set a two-year cap.
"Now that the time period of the suspension has elapsed," Clegg wrote, "the question is not whether we choose to reinstate Mr. Trump's accounts, but whether there remain such extraordinary circumstances that extending the suspension beyond the original two-year period is justified."
If Trump violates Meta's terms of service or shares dangerous content, he may be subject to another ban of up to two years "depending on the severity of the violation," according to Clegg.
Meta acknowledged in its announcement that "reasonable people" are likely to disagree about the correct approach on this issue, noting that users are likely to call on the company to take action against Trump again following his reinstatement. Meta says it knows its decision may be controversial but that "a decision had to be made."
Meta has struggled to justify and explain the methods it used when it decided to ban Trump two years ago, and the company has been accused of having double standards when it comes to posts made by controversial public figures.