Facebook's Oversight Board upholds Trump platform ban

The board also found that Facebook violated its own rules by imposing an indefinite suspension.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Facebook's Oversight Board has upheld the company's decision to suspend former president Donald Trump from Facebook and Instagram. In its ruling, the review board said the decision to ban then-president Trump was warranted because Trump's actions during the Capitol riot "severely violated Facebook's rules and encouraged and legitimized violence."

However, the board said that Facebook must review the Trump suspension again within six months. The board also found that Facebook violated its own rules by imposing an indefinite suspension, noting that such a penalty is not described in Facebook's content policies. The board is also critical of the fact that Facebook has total discretion on when to impose or lift an indefinite suspension. 

What's more, the board wants Facebook to examine the social network's role in spreading misinformation related to election fraud claims.

More from the ruling:

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.

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.

In January, Facebook referred its decision to indefinitely suspend the Facebook and Instagram accounts of former President Donald Trump to its independent Oversight Board for review. 

Facebook, along with Twitter and a bevy of other social networking sites, banned Trump from posting online following the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, during which Trump was accused of "actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power" via a series of incendiary posts.

Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications for Facebook, said in a press release at the time that while Facebook stands by its initial decision to de-platform Trump, the company acknowledges the problematic nature of tech companies having the power to ban elected leaders. 

Facebook announced the 40-person Oversight Board in 2019, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg likening the body to a "supreme court" for resolving issues in content censorship

Editorial standards