Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Ban on Former US President Donald Trump

Former President of the United States, Donald Trump is in global news again. His ban by Facebook which happened on 7 January 2021, a day after his ‘storm troopers’ invaded the US Capitol in Washington, was, today, 5 May, upheld by the social medium’s oversight board.

The decision to uphold the ban, according to a report by NBCNEWS, is a blow to Trump’s hopes to post again to Facebook or Instagram anytime soon.

“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” the board said in its decision.

The board said that Trump “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” by maintaining a narrative that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.

The medium reported further that the oversight board said, it was not appropriate for Facebook to vary from its normal penalties when it made the ban indefinite. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing posts, imposing a limited suspension or permanently disabling an account, the board said.

“As Facebook suspended Mr. Trump’s accounts ‘indefinitely,’ the company must reassess this penalty,” the board said. “It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored.”

NBC reported further: “The ruling pushes Facebook to more clearly define what the penalties are for world leaders who violate its rules, a topic that sparked worldwide debate even before Trump and that hangs over the company as Trump considers his own

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in a blog post responding to the board’s criticism that the company 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,” Clegg wrote.

Facebook created the Oversight Board last year as a kind of “supreme court” to hear appeals from users like Trump who have had their posts removed or who want to challenge other sensitive or contentious moderation decisions. The decisions of the board, made up of 20 members from around the globe, are not binding, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to abide by what it says.

Its decision focused on two Trump posts from Jan. 6, both praising people involved in the Capitol attack: one post telling the rioters, “We love you. You’re very special,” and the other calling them “great patriots,” and saying “remember this day forever.”

“At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions,” the board said.

The opinion reflected some dissent from within the board. A minority of the board would have gone further and ruled that Trump’s posts were out of line not only as simple praise of the rioters but as a “call to action” inciting violence.

The decision does not apply to Twitter, YouTube or any of the other services that banned or restricted Trump in the wake of the Capitol attack.

The Oversight Board’s decision is likely to become fodder for Republican lawmakers and other critics of the increasing power that Facebook and other tech companies wield over political debate and online speech.

It also could be a far-reaching precedent for how some of the internet’s biggest platforms treat the speech of world leaders and politicians.”

The Oversight Board: The Aim

As its community grew to more than two billion people, it became increasingly clear to the Facebook company that it shouldn’t be making so many decisions about speech and online safety on its own. The Oversight Board was created to help Facebook answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online: what to take down, what to leave up and why.

The board uses its independent judgment to support people’s right to free expression and ensure that those rights are being adequately respected. The board’s decisions to uphold or reverse Facebook’s content decisions will be binding, meaning that Facebook will have to implement them, unless doing so could violate the law.


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