Facebook Oversight Board upholds Trump ban

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Facebook’s Oversight Board has upheld the company’s decision to block former President Donald Trump from its platforms, it announced Wednesday.

The ruling means that Trump will continue to be blocked from Facebook and Instagram. But the Board said an indefinite suspension of Trump’s account was inappropriate and the company has six months to layout new penalties.

“However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension,” the board said in a statement explaining its decision. “Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”

Facebook has 30 days to respond publicly, according to Oversight Board’s rules.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the decision to block Trump from Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 7, one day after a group of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a bloody and deadly riot.

In the same week, Trump’s platform of choice, Twitter, announced the decision to permanently ban Trump from its platform. Trump was also blocked from Snapchat and YouTube after the riot.

Trump has more than 35 million Facebook followers and more than 24 million Instagram followers. He also had more than 88 million Twitter followers before he was blocked and used the platform often to break news or announce policy moves.

The social media bans ignited a debate about the role of social media giants in society and whether they should have the power to silence users without external policies that are clearly defined.

Later in January, Facebook defended its blocking of the former president, and said it was referring the call on whether to make the ban permanent to the company’s independent Oversight Board, which was officially formed in October and is made up of 20 “members from a variety of cultural and professional backgrounds,” according to its website.

A panel of five randomly selected members from the broader 20-person board deliberates on any single case. Once the panel reaches a decision, a majority from the larger group must sign off before it is published.

“The board was established last year to make the final call on some of the most difficult content decisions Facebook makes,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, wrote in January of the board. “It is an independent body and its decisions are binding — they can’t be overruled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg or anyone else at Facebook.”

In that January post, Clegg acknowledged that the social media titan’s decision to silence a world leader was controversial and called for greater deliberation.

“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. Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own,” he wrote. “We agree.”

Trump, for his part, appears to already be readying his future on alternatives to major social media sites. On Tuesday, Trump launched his own webpage that allows him to circumvent the Facebook and Twitter bans on his accounts. The site, donaldjtrump.com/desk, launched with a video declaring itself a “beacon of freedom” and “a place to speak freely and safely” four months after Twitter purged the 45th president and Facebook suspended him indefinitely.

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