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'I'M BACK!' Trump posts on Facebook, YouTube for first time in two years

Former President Donald Trump greets guests following an event on March 13, 2023 in Davenport, Iowa. Trump's visit followed those by potential challengers for the GOP presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Scott Olson
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Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump greets guests following an event on March 13, 2023 in Davenport, Iowa. Trump's visit followed those by potential challengers for the GOP presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Updated March 17, 2023 at 7:36 PM ET

Former President Donald Trump can once again upload new videos to YouTube, the company saidon Friday.

And within hours of the announcement, he posted his first video titled, "I'M BACK!"

The 11-second video shows Trump talking at a rally saying, "Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business. Complicated."

Trump also posted "I'M BACK!" and the video to Facebook, which lifted its ban on his content in January.

Leslie Miller, YouTube's vice president of Public Policy, said the decision to reinstate the former president was taken after the company considered the possibility of him inciting actual violence.

"We carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence, balancing that with the importance of preserving the opportunity for voters to hear equally from major national candidates in the run up to an election," she said in a statement to NPR.

Trump is running again for president in 2024, and heavily used social media platforms in his successful bid for the White House in 2016, as well as during his four years in office.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 violent attack on the Capitol, YouTube suspended Trump's channel on its platform. It said he violated its policies against inciting violence.

The ban came after he posted a video where he said the speech he made at a rally with his supporters before the attack was "totally appropriate." At the time, YouTube didn't clarify whether the ban would be permanent.

Facebook and Twitter also suspended Trump after the siege on the Capitol. Under new CEO Elon Musk, Twitter restored his account in November, but Trump has yet to post there.

"The world has cause to be alarmed over how much power social media companies hold, especially when politicians like President Trump are able to use their products to incite an attempted coup," said Joan Donovan, an expert on online extremism at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

YouTube said that if Trump violates its policies again, then the company could reimpose the ban.

The consequences of dangerous behavior

People who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to try to keep Congress from certifying that President Joe Biden legally won the 2020 presidential election have said they were stoked on by Trump's social media posts. Five people died as a result of the day's violence.

"The Trump ban was a shot over the bow telling all users, especially high-profile users, that dangerous behavior can result in catastrophic consequences," said Karen North, a clinical professor who specializes in social media at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

But, with Trump now running for president again, limiting his access to the platforms "could draw enormous criticism," she added.

Compared to his 87 million followers on Twitter and 34 million on Facebook, Trump has just 2.6 million followers on YouTube.

In response to the bans from the social networks two years ago, Trump started his own platform called Truth Social, where he has nearly 5 million followers. There, he continuously makes the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen and touts far-right QAnon conspiracy theories.

Advocacy group Accountable Tech found that hundreds of Trump's posts on Truth Social would violate most social media companies' community standards. The group said Trump released a video on the site on Friday that falsely alleges the 2020 election was stolen and that the Jan. 6 insurrectionists should be released from prison.

"Since using social media to incite a violent insurrection against the United States government, Trump's online behavior has gotten even more dangerous," Nicole Gill, executive director of Accountable Tech, said in a statement.

"YouTube put profits and politics over the safety of their users, the integrity of their platform, and the wellbeing of our democracy," she said about allowing him back.

Trump's "I'M BACK!" video got more than 37,000 views in the first couple hours of being live on Friday. It also had nearly 8,000 comments, filled with people welcoming his return.

Meantime, his post on Facebook received more than 66,000 reactions, 17,000 comments and 14,000 shares.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lisa Lambert
Dara Kerr
Dara Kerr is a tech reporter for NPR. She examines the choices tech companies make and the influence they wield over our lives and society.