Facebook’s fact-checkers will need to stop fact-checking former President Donald Trump following the announcement that he is running for president, according to a company memo obtained by CNN.
While Trump is currently banned from Facebook, the fact-check ban applies to anything Trump says and false statements made by Trump can be posted to the platform by others. Despite Trump’s ban, “Team Trump,” a page run by Trump’s political group, is still active and has 2.3 million followers.
Tuesday’s memo from Meta underscores the challenges social media platforms face in deciding how to handle another Trump presidential campaign. The former president announced Tuesday night that he would seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, aiming to become only the second commander-in-chief ever elected to two nonconsecutive terms.
Facebook’s parent company Meta pays third-party fact-checking organizations to apply fact-check labels to misinformation across Facebook and Instagram.
The carve-out is not exclusive to Trump and applies to all politicians, but given the rate fact-checkers find themselves dealing with claims made by the former president, a manager on Meta’s “news integrity partnership” team emailed fact-checkers on Tuesday ahead of Trump’s announcement.
“Some of you have reached out seeking guidance regarding fact-checking political speech in anticipation of a potential candidacy announcement from former President Trump,” the Meta staffer wrote in the memo.
The company has long had an exception to its fact-checking policy for politicians.
“It is not our role to intervene when politicians speak,” Meta executive Nick Clegg, a former politician, said in 2019, defending the exemption.
The Meta memo sent to fact-checkers made clear that if Trump announced a 2024 presidential bid Tuesday night, he could no longer be fact-checked on the platform.
The memo noted that “political speech is ineligible for fact-checking. This includes the words a politician says as well as photo, video, or other content that is clearly labeled as created by the politician or their campaign.”
Meta’s policy doesn’t stipulate that a candidate formally register with the Federal Election Commission. “We define a ‘politician’ as candidates running for office, current office holders – and, by extension, many of their cabinet appointees – along with political parties and their leaders,” the memo stated.
It concluded that “if former President Trump makes a clear, public announcement that he is running for office, he would be considered a politician under our program policies.”
Andy Stone, a Meta spokesperson, said the memo was “a reiteration of our long-standing policy should not be news to anyone.”
Meta’s fact-checking program has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats – with many Republicans saying Meta goes too far, while many Democrats say the company doesn’t go far enough.
Trump has not been allowed to post on his Facebook and Instagram accounts since the days following the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. However, Meta plans on considering allowing Trump back on the platform as soon as January – two years since his initial ban.
This headline and story have been updated to reflect Trump’s announced 2024 presidential bid.