At least two members of Facebook’s Oversight Board, which upheld the social media company’s ban on former president Donald Trump’s account last week, have come out against the decision, warning that Facebook has too much power.
Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning–Schmidt, a board member, said last week that Facebook’s indefinite ban of Trump is an unprecedented punishment.
“Facebook invented their own sanctions as they looked into this particular user, Trump,” she told Axios. “Why is this user, Trump, any more special than anyone else? To be punished differently, in ways Facebook chooses to.”
Thorning–Schmidt explained Facebook’s permanent ban was not even an option in the platform’s community guidelines until the company invented a new rule to issue the ban.
This is why the board ruled that Facebook needs to reevaluate its decision to come up with a “proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platforms,” she added.
Facebook’s decision to hand off this debate to the Oversight Board was “lazy,” Thorning–Schmidt said, noting the board was not created to lift responsibility off Facebook or help them justify new rules it creates along the way.
Another Board member, Michael McConnell, agreed and warned that Facebook “exercises too much power.”
“They did not provide any reasons for that,” McConnell said of Facebook’s decision to ban Trump’s account. “That is not a provision in their rules. That was wrong.”
He went on to say that Facebook’s content-moderation rules were “not transparent, they are unclear, they are internally inconsistent.”
What Facebook should have done is remove Trump’s posts on the day of the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising, which violated Facebook’s rules, said McConnell. But that is where the company should have stopped, he argued.
“They are arbitrary. They are inconsistent. And it is the job of the Oversight Board to try to bring some discipline to that process,” he said.