December 7, 2023

In a statement emailed, Trump said Facebook’s decision was “an insult to the record-breaking 75 million people and many others who voted for us in the rigged 2020 presidential election.” He added that Facebook should not be allowed to “censor and silence” itself and others on the platform.

Facebook’s wider shift from automatically exempting politicians from its rules is a blatant reversal of the freedom of expression advocated by Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO. In a 2019 address at Georgetown University, Mr. Zuckerberg said, “People who have the power to express themselves on a large scale are a new kind of force in the world – a fifth power alongside the other power structures of society.”

But this stance has been criticized by lawmakers, activists, and Facebook staff, who said the company is free to allow misinformation and other harmful speeches by politicians.

While many academics and activists welcomed Facebook’s changes on Friday as a step in the right direction, they said implementing the new rules would be difficult. The company would likely go into an intricate dance with global executives who got used to special treatment from the platform, they said.

“This change will bring the speeches of world leaders under scrutiny,” said David Kaye, law professor and former United Nations freedom of expression observer. “It will be painful for leaders who are not used to control, and it will also create tension.”

Countries like India, Turkey and Egypt have threatened to crack down on Facebook if it goes against the interests of the ruling parties, Kaye said. Countries said they could punish Facebook’s local employees or ban access to the service, he said.

“This decision by Facebook requires new political calculations for both these global leaders and Facebook,” said Kaye.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Maggie Haberman contributed to the coverage.