Facebook’s quasi-independent Oversight Board has voted to uphold former US President, Donald Trump’s ban from the platform. The former President’s account was suspended four months ago for inciting the deadly January 6 Capitol riot.
In a statement, the board noted that it has;“upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s;access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account”.
The board, however, indicated that whiles ongoing risk of serious violence justified Facebook’s suspension;at the time, it “was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension”. The panel added that Facebook was;seeking to avoid its responsibilities by applying “a vague, standardless penalty” and then referring;the case to the board to resolve.
“Indefinite penalties of this sort do not pass the international smell test. We are not cops reigning over the realm of social media.”
Likewise, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish Prime Minister who sits on the board, told reporters that Facebook dodged its responsibility to enforce its own rules. She also posited that Facebook can’t just invent “new unwritten rules” for special users when it suits the company while everybody else has to follow their standards.
“Facebook should either permanently disable Trump’s account or propose a suspension for a specific period of time. They did get it right, but they can’t have a penalty that’s indeterminate because that’s not in their own rules”.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice-President of global affairs and communication, stated that Facebook “will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate.”
“In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended,” he declared.
‘Review and justify proportionate response’
Following the verdict, the board called on Facebook to “review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform within six months”.
In this regard, the board offered a number of recommendations to the social media platform.
The board advised against drawing a firm distinction between political leaders and other influential users because anyone with a big audience can potentially cause serious risks of harm.
Also, the panel recommended that considerations of a political leader’s “newsworthiness” shouldn’t take priority when the company must take urgent action to prevent harm.
Facebook initially said that it didn’t consider newsworthiness in its Trump decision, but the board said there remains widespread confusion about Facebook’s handling of influential users.
The panel therefore suggested that Facebook should publicly explain the rules that it uses to sanction influential users. They also emphasized the need for time-bound suspensions and clear rules on how they can be lifted.
The twenty-member board also revealed that a minority of members emphasized that Facebook should require users who seek reinstatement after being suspended to “recognize their wrongdoing and commit to observing the rules in the future.”
Reacting to the news, Trump’s former White House Chief of staff, Mark Meadows chided the decision by the board.
“This is a sad day for America. They shouldn’t have a monopoly, and yet Google and Facebook and YouTube actually control much of what America sees… it is time that we break up big tech, not just regulate it.”