Facebook’s Oversight Board has upheld the platform’s decision to ban Donald Trump‘s accounts, but says the company broke its own rules by imposing an indefinite suspension.
Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended indefinitely in the wake of the US Capitol riots over fears that he would use the platforms to encourage further violence.
The social network had already blocked Trump from posting for 24 hours, but then extended the ban until at least Joe Biden replaced him as president on January 20.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post at the time.”
The Oversight Board upheld the decision, but added that the “indeterminate and standardless penalty” of indefinite suspension was inappropriate.
“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 said in a blogpost.
“The board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform. Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision.”
Often called “Facebook’s Supreme Court”, the board was designed to provide independent judgments on Facebook’s policies and decisions, but the restrictions on its powers have led critics to call it toothless.
A group of academics, lawmakers, and activists known as the Real Facebook Oversight Board said the new Trump ruling was a “PR smokescreen” that “kicked the decision back to Facebook.”
🚨BREAKING🚨: The @OversightBoard proves it's toothless. Donald J. Trump has been temporarily suspended from Facebook.
— The Real Facebook Oversight Board (@FBoversight) May 5, 2021
The decision will prove decisive. Campaigners have called for a permanent ban over concerns that Trump’s return would make the platform unsafe, while free speech advocates argued that unelected tech giants shouldn’t unilaterally determine who can speak on their platforms. But the verdict leaves the door ajar for Trump’s return.