Facebook Refers Donald Trump Ban Decision To Oversight Board

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Hot potato. Mark Zuckerberg refers his decision to indefinitely suspend Donald Trump over to its independent oversight board

Facebook has referred its decision to indefinitely suspend the accounts of former US President Donald Trump to its independent oversight board.

Donald Trump was widely condemned for his role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January, which resulted in the deaths of five people (including one police officer).

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter initially banned him for a limited period of time (Facebook banned him for 24 hours), but as the scale of Trump’s attempted coup became apparently, Facebook announced it had suspended his account indefinitely, whilst Twitter banned Trump permanently.

Image credit: US Senate

Decision referal

In a post on Facebook shortly after the attempted coup, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing the President to continue to use its service are simply too great.

“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” wrote Zuckerberg.

Now several week after the event, and with the inauguration of President Biden completed, Nick Clegg (former Lib Dem leader and UK Deputy Prime Minister) has announced the firm has referred former President Trump’s suspension from Facebook to the oversight board.

“Today, Facebook is referring its decision to indefinitely suspend former US President Donald Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts to the independent Oversight Board,” wrote Clegg.

“We believe our decision was necessary and right,” he added. “Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgement on whether it should be upheld. While we await the board’s decision, Mr. Trump’s access will remain suspended indefinitely.”

“We look forward to receiving the board’s decision — and we hope, given the clear justification for our actions on January 7, that it will uphold the choices we made,” Clegg wrote.

“Our decision to suspend then-President Trump’s access was taken in extraordinary circumstances,” Clegg added. “A US president actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power; five people killed; legislators fleeing the seat of democracy. This has never happened before – and we hope it will never happen again. It was an unprecedented set of events which called for unprecedented action.”

“Whether you believe the decision was justified or not, many people are understandably uncomfortable with the idea that tech companies have the power to ban elected leaders,” noted Clegg. “Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own. We agree.”

“This is why we established the Oversight Board,” Clegg concluded. “It is the first body of its kind in the world: an expert-led independent organization with the power to impose binding decisions on a private social media company. Its decision will be available at the board’s website when it is issued.”

Oversight board

Facebook’s oversight began hearing cases for the first time in October 2020.

The oversight board, which currently has 20 members, was created by Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic content.

Facebook announced an oversight board in September 2019, amid concerns about the platform hosting questionable content from certain groups.

The move followed ongoing pressure from governments on tech firms to crack down on hate speech and other extremist content.

In May 2020 Facebook named members of its content oversight board that can overrule Mark Zuckerberg over objectionable content.

Facebook, along with Twitter and Youtube, also last year agreed with large advertisers to outside audits of their efforts to tackle hate speech.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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