Former US President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, US on February 28, 2021.
Joe Skipper | Reuters
Facebook’s independent supervisory board ruled to enforce the company’s January decision to suspend former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
But, the board said, the indefinite period of suspension “was not appropriate.” The board effectively reversed the decision to Facebook, saying it “insists” that the company “review this matter to establish and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules applied to others. users of his platform. “
The board asked Facebook to complete the review within six months and made suggestions for creating a clear policy that balances public safety and freedom of speech.
“We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate,” Facebook said in a blog post following the announcement. “Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain on hold.”
Facebook first suspended Trump’s accounts after the January 6 uprising against the Capitol. The suspension was Facebook’s most aggressive move against Trump during his four-year term.
“We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this time are simply too great,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO at the time, wrote in a post on his Facebook page.
Facebook referred the decision to its Oversight Board a few weeks later, saying that given the importance of the decision, “we believe it is important for the board to review it and make an independent judgment as to whether it should be enforced.”
The decision to uphold Trump’s suspension is the most significant action taken so far by Facebook’s Board of Trustees, which was launched in October 2020 as a de facto “Supreme Court” for the company’s decisions on content moderation. The board is an independent body made up of experts in citizenship, technology, freedom of expression, journalism and human rights from around the world.
Facebook has agreed to abide by the Oversight Board’s rulings, even though Zuckerberg still has undisputed control of the company, with majority voting over the company’s stock.
The Council’s findings
The Oversight Board found that Trump had “seriously violated” Facebook’s community standards with his January 6 posts. But it also said the platform is “trying to avoid its responsibilities” by imposing a vague penalty and then referring it to the council for review.
His statements: “We love you. You’re very special, ” referring to the people who riot around the Capitol, calling the rioters “ great patriots, ” and telling them to “ remember this day forever, ” were in violation of Facebook’s rules forbidding praise. of those engaged in violence, the board wrote.
“The board found that by holding an unfounded account of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment in which a serious risk of violence was possible,” the board wrote, adding that when Trump made his statements posted, “there was a clear, immediate risk of damage and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions.”
But Facebook’s decision to make the ban indefinitely was not justified, the board found, as it “did not follow a clear, published procedure.”
By applying a vague, default fine and then referring this case to the Council for resolution, Facebook is trying to avoid its responsibilities, the Council wrote. “The board rejects Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook is enforcing and justifying a certain punishment.”
The board said that while Facebook should apply the same rules to all members, the company should consider context when assessing harm, including when posts are posted by “influential users.” It added that newsworthiness concerns “should not be a priority when urgent action is needed to prevent significant damage.”
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