Oversight Board upholds former President Trump’s suspension from Facebook

BREAKING UPDATE: The Oversight Board has announced it will uphold former President Trump’s suspension from Facebook says the company failed to impose a proper penalty.

In a series of tweets, the Oversight Board says,

The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7 to suspend then-President Trump from Facebook and Instagram. Trump’s posts during the Capitol riot severely violated Facebook’s rules and encouraged and legitimized violence.

The Board also found Facebook violated its own rules by imposing a suspension that was ‘indefinite.’ This penalty is not described in Facebook’s content policies. It has no clear criteria and gives Facebook total discretion on when to impose or lift it.

Within 6 months of today, Facebook must review this matter and decide a new penalty that reflects its rules, the severity of the violation, and prospect of future harm. Facebook can either impose a time-limited suspension or account deletion.

Facebook cannot make up the rules as it goes, and anyone concerned about its power should be concerned about allowing this. Having clear rules that apply to all users and Facebook is essential for ensuring the company treats users fairly. This is what the Board stands for.

We call on Facebook to ensure that if a head of state or high government official repeatedly posts messages that pose a risk of harm under international human rights norms, the company should either suspend the account for a set period or delete it.

If Facebook opts for a suspension for a set period of time for influential users, the company should assess the risk of the user inciting significant harm before the suspension ends. If the risk remains, Facebook should impose another suspension.

The ‘newsworthiness’ of a public figure’s remarks should never take priority over urgent action to prevent harm. Facebook must be far more transparent about how its newsworthiness policy works.

Restrictions on speech are often imposed by powerful state actors against dissidents and political oppositions. Facebook must resist pressure from governments to silence political opposition, and stand up for free expression.

Finally, we urged Facebook to conduct a review into its contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and political tensions that led to the events of January 6. This should look at Facebook’s design and policy choices that may allow its platform to be abused.”

Read the full decision here.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Previous report from Boston 25 News:

In this country we have freedom of speech, but not freedom of consequence. We still haven’t seen all of the fallout from that dark Wednesday afternoon on January 6, but one thing we did see is then President Donald Trump’s ban from several social media platforms, including a permanent ban from Twitter and an indefinite ban from Facebook.

The Facebook break up is now five months old and it is now decision time for the company’s Oversight Board.

“These are not judges, these are not members of Congress or anyone from the government,” said David Richard, professor of communications at Emerson College.

“These are people who are appointed by a private company, and they’re making a decision in the way that a hundred years ago, this decision would have been probably made by Congress. If he is allowed back on to Facebook, it’s a boom for Facebook in that he has millions of followers that flock to his page, and that’s a lot of eyeballs on a lot of advertising dollars to Facebook. At the same time, he’s so inflammatory that I think others will jump off of Facebook. I think that there, it just it creates a lot more chaos and disruption.”

Richard studies social media trends and said people are watching this unprecedented decision and what it will mean even outside of the former president. But should this change how the rest of us use social media?

“No it shouldn’t, but there should be rules, some additional rules, they don’t exist yet,” said Braintree resident Anna Zasimod.

“So we should think about it and decide what we want to do. It’s hard. I think everyone should be allowed to share their opinion. On the other hand, it’s not government Facebook and it’s not government Twitter. They have their own policy and they can do what they want.”

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“Depends on how you use your social media platform,” said Dedham resident Karenzoe Bastien.

“For me, I’m a photographer, I use it for business. Other than that, I don’t use it to shame anybody, I don’t use it to target or cyberbullying. I don’t do any of that. He takes social media too personal and he uses it to get people’s attention in a negative way. But he has an opinion about everything, so he uses social media as a way to get back to people, troll, and make them laugh. I get it but it’s not necessary sometimes, but that’s him and it makes him who he is.”

“What does it really take to be banned from a social media platform for life? I mean you know certainly, the circumstances with Donald Trump were very unique, not everybody is president of the United States, not everybody has a million followers and not everybody is pushing an agenda the way that Donald Trump was,” Richard said.

The Oversight Board will announce its ruling around 9 a.m. Wednesday. If it rules in Trump’s favor, Facebook has seven days to reinstate the account. If the board upholds Facebook’s decision, Trump will remain “indefinitely” suspended.

Part of the implications of this decision includes whether or not Trump will decide to run for president again while still banned.

“I believe that Donald Trump certainly has a plan B,” Richard said. “I think his plan B is his plan A anyway, which is to have his own social media platform to be able to say things to get to his people and to get a message out that he wants to get out, and he’s going to do that with or without Facebook and Instagram.”

We are already starting to see that as Trump launched a new communications platform Tuesday on his own site for his followers to spread any message he wants.

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