Donald Trump posted on Facebook and YouTube on Friday for the first time since the platforms had suspended him following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — and just hours after YouTube lifted the suspension.
Meta, which owns Facebook, had announced in January it was lifting the ban on Trump.
After the Google-owned video site YouTube lifted the suspension on his account Friday, a stream of commenters congratulated the former president on his return. A handful of them mentioned well-known slogans from QAnon, a sprawling set of false claims that have coalesced into an extremist ideology that has radicalized its followers. YouTube prohibits people from promoting QAnon material on its platform.
YouTube said in a tweet it had “carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence while balancing the chance for voters to hear equally from major national candidates in the run up to an election.”
Trump is the Republican front-runner, according to polling data, in the 2024 presidential election.
Trump now has full access to his Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts, potentially giving him the social media reach that helped him win the 2016 presidential election. But he has yet to begin taking full advantage of the internet megaphones, preferring to post on Truth Social — his own platform — and speak at rallies. The former president has told people he can’t leave Truth Social because his presence there is keeping it going, and he doesn’t want a venture so closely linked to his name to fail, The Washington Post reported in November.
The policy change is a big shift for YouTube, which had always said that it doesn’t take the political or news relevance of an account into consideration when making a decision about whether to take it down, unlike Facebook, which in past years had made explicit exceptions to its rules for well-known politicians. The decision comes a month after longtime YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said she would step down to focus on her health.
Unlike Twitter and Facebook, where the president posted his musings, policy changes and attacks on rivals directly, he used YouTube more as an online library for videos of his rallies. His account there has 2.65 million subscribers, compared to the 87.4 million followers he has on Twitter.
YouTube was also the last of the major social media platforms to suspend Trump after the attack on the Capitol, making its move several days after Twitter and then Facebook banned him. The video site said it suspended Trump out of concern for “the ongoing potential for violence” soon after he uploaded a video where he said his comments to supporters just before the Capitol attack were “totally appropriate.”
Over the past two years, executives had said they were monitoring that threat of violence and had judged it to still be high enough to keep Trump’s account locked down. But as Trump ramps up his campaign to be the Republican nominee in 2024, that calculation has changed.
The shift began with Elon Musk taking over Twitter and inviting Trump to return to what was previously his main social media outlet in November. Musk’s moves have won praise from conservative politicians who have accused the Big Tech companies of being biased against right-wing views, though conservative viewpoints and politicians find massive audiences on those sites.
Facebook came next, with parent company Meta saying it would allow Trump back onto the site as well as Instagram. “The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, wrote in a Jan. 25 blog post.