The social network’s quasi-independent Oversight Board voted to uphold his ban from the platform after his account was suspended four months ago for allegedly inciting violence that led to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
One conservative social media watchdog was not surprised by the decision.
“Facebook is essentially acting as prosecutor, defender, judge, jury, appellate court and executioner,” said Mike Davis, founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project, in a statement following the announcement. “No one company should have the power to effectively block a president from communicating with the American people. This Oversight Board must be recognized as the farce that it is—it is clearly not a sustainable model for political debate and communication in this country.”
Facebook’s decision to uphold its ban on President Donald Trump is extremely disappointing. It’s clear that Mark Zuckerberg views himself as the arbiter of speech.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) May 5, 2021
While upholding the suspension, the board faulted Facebook in a statement for the way it made the decision.
The board said the ongoing risk of serious violence justified Facebook’s suspension at the time, but said it “was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.”
The board said Facebook was seeking to avoid its responsibilities by applying “a vague, standardless penalty” and then referring the case to the board to resolve.
The board agreed with Facebook that that two of Trump’s Jan. 6 posts “severely violated” the content standards of both Facebook and Instagram.
“We love you. You’re very special,” he said in the first post, and “great patriots” and “remember this day forever” in the second. Those violated Facebook’s rules against praising or supporting people engaged in violence, the board said.
The board says Facebook has six months to reexamine the “arbitrary penalty” it imposed on Jan. 7 and decide on another penalty that reflects the “gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm.”
The board says the new penalty must be “clear, necessary and proportionate” and consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations.
The board says if Facebook decides to restore Trump’s accounts, the company must be able to promptly address further violations.
A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The board, which has 20 members and will eventually grow to 40, did not reveal how it voted. It said a minority of members emphasized that Facebook should require users who seek reinstatement after being suspended to “recognize their wrongdoing and commit to observing the rules in the future.”
Trump has also been permanently banned from Twitter.
Since his removal from the two major social media sites, he has consistently issued press releases and on Tuesday launched another communication platform to deliver messages to his followers, at www.donaldjtrump.com/desk. He has said Twitter is now boring and has no plans to return to the site, if allowed.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.