Oversight Board Upholds Trump’s Facebook Suspension

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which makes the final decision about content removal on the platform, has published its long awaited decision about Donald Trump.

The Oversight Board on Wednesday ruled that Mark Zuckerberg’s firm can keep suspending Donald Trump on Facebook and Instagram, in a move that reaffirms the platform’s decision to implement an ‘indefinite’ ban of the former US President in January this year.

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 who was beaten to death).

Trump ban

In the immediate aftermath, Facebook banned Trump for 24 hours, but as the full scale of the attempted insurrection became clear, it then suspended his accounts indefinitely.

YouTube and Twitter also initially banned Trump for a limited period of time, but Twitter then opted to permanently ban Trump from its platform.

YouTube suspended Trump’s account indefinitely.

On 21 January Facebook referred its decision to indefinitely suspend Trump’s accounts to its independent Oversight Board.

In February it was confirmed the Oversight Board would make a final ruling on the ‘indefinite’ ban of Trump on Facebook and Instagram.

Trump ruling

But on Wednesday the Oversight Board ruled that Facebook could keep preventing Trump from using its platform.

However, the board said Facebook must review the decision within six months, and it did object to the social network making the suspension indefinite.

“The Board 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 wrote. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”

“Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account,” it said. “The Board insists that Facebook 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.”

“Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision,” it added. “The Board also made policy recommendations for Facebook to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression.”

Facebook reaction

“Today, the Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts,” wrote Facebook VP of communications Nick Clegg in a blog post.

“As we stated in January, we believe our decision was necessary and right, and we’re pleased the board has recognised that the unprecedented circumstances justified the exceptional measure we took.”

“However, while the board has not required Facebook to immediately restore Mr. Trump’s accounts, it has not specified the appropriate duration of the penalty,” wrote Clegg. “

“Instead, the board criticised the open-ended nature of the suspension, calling it an ‘indeterminate and standardless penalty,’ and insisted we review our response. We 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.”

Trump had over 80 million followers on his Twitter account, and has almost 60 million followers across Facebook and Instagram.

And Donald Trump – perhaps sensing that he would not be returning to Facebook or Twitter any time soon – today announced the creation of a website to publish content ‘straight from the desk’ of the former president of the United States.

The new ‘communications’ website, found here, essentially publishes Trump’s thoughts on daily issues, much like he did on Twitter.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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