Facebook said Thursday that it has 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 by pro-Trump extremists, 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 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.
The reaction to our decision shows the delicate balance private companies are being asked to strike. Some said that Facebook should have banned President Trump long ago, and that the violence on the Capitol was itself a product of social media; others that it was an unacceptable display of unaccountable corporate power over political speech.
We have taken the view that in open democracies people have a right to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can be held to account. But it has never meant that politicians can say whatever they like. They remain subject to our policies banning the use of our platform to incite violence. It is these policies that were enforced when we took the decision to suspend President Trump's access.
Whether you believe the decision was justified or not, many people are understandably uncomfortable with the idea that tech companies have the power to ban elected leaders. Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn't be making these big decisions on their own. We agree. Every day, Facebook makes decisions about whether content is harmful, and these decisions are made according to Community Standards we have developed over many years. It would be better if these decisions were made according to frameworks agreed by democratically accountable lawmakers. But in the absence of such laws, there are decisions that we cannot duck.
Facebook's Oversight Board will now have the ultimate say on whether the permanent suspension of Trump's accounts should be upheld. Whatever decision the board makes will be binding, meaning that not even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will have the power to overrule it. The former president's accounts will remain suspended until the board makes its decision. Facebook announced the 40-person Oversight Board in 2019, with Zuckerberg likening the body to a "supreme court" for resolving issues in content censorship.
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