Facebook’s independent Oversight Board has upheld the social media network’s decision to indefinitely block former President Donald Trump from its platforms, but emphasized that it was “not appropriate” for the company to impose the “indeterminate and standard less penalty of indefinite suspension.”
“The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account,” the board said in a blog post announcing the decision Wednesday morning.
“However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account,” the board added.
The 20-member board panel issued its decision within the hour and found that despite Trump’s posts had “severely violated” Facebook rules it questioned the “indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension” and “insisted” the company find a “proportionate response” within six months.
“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,” the board wrote.
“In applying this penalty, Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure. ‘Indefinite’ suspensions are not described in the company’s content policies. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account,” they added.
Facebook will have six months to review the “arbitrary” indefinite ban, saying in a tweet that the company “violated its own rules” and 30 days to publicly respond to the Oversight Board’s decision and policy recommendations.
After the Jan.6 Capitol riot, Trump was permanently de-platformed from Twitter with other big tech platforms following suits. Facebook would follow in Twitter’s footsteps just a week later by indefinitely suspending Trump’s account. After Twitter and Facebook actions, Google then suspended Trump’s YouTube channel, Reddit banned some pro-Trump forums, with Snapchat, which had already limited Trump’s activity on its network, announced that it would permanently ban his account on his final day of his presidency.
Facebook launched the Independent Oversight Board last summer currently consisting of 20 members, led by two U.S. constitutional scholars, a former prime minister of Denmark, and a former official with the Organization of American States. Facebook is the only social media company to have any sort of form of an internet governance body, which was reported to have cost the company over $130 million to fund the board.
Meanwhile, Twitter has stated that the banned is permanent and doesn’t plan to reverse its decision even if Trump opts to make a 2024 comeback, nor have other online platforms that also suspended the former president after Jan. 6.
Despite the obvious decision to ban the former president from most if not all social media platforms, Trump was already one step ahead by launching a new online communication platform within his website on Tuesday to “freely and safely” communicate directly to his supporters. While the platform currently does not have a “reply” feature for users to engage or post comments on Trump’s posts, it does have the ability for now in allowing users to share links of Trump’s post to their own Twitter or Facebook accounts.
Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller revealed to Fox News in late March that the former president is planning to make a return to social media within the next “two or three months” with “his own platform.” It’s unknown at the moment if the newly debuted online space will be a temporary means to communicate with supporters until his highly anticipated own social media platform is fully launched.
The decision sets a global dangerous precedent for how big tech media companies will moderate and suppressive powerful people especially one who was a former President of the United States.