Facebook’s impartial Oversight Board has officially made its ruling on whether Facebook should let Donald Trump back into his account. The former president was banned from Facebook “indefinitely” after the storming of the United States Capitol building on January 6, 2021. The Oversight Board’s ruling comes down both on Trump and on Facebook. After months of deliberation, they decided that suspending the Facebook account fell in with guidelines and was an appropriate action. However, they added that Facebook suspending it “indefinitely” was not appropriate. They ruled that Facebook needs to take permanent action on some level within the next six months.
In the review of his account, the board found that Donald Trump “severely” violated the Facebook Community Standards and Instagram’s Community Guidelines. These rules state that you cannot praise people engaged in violence. Close to the time of the Capitol Riots, Trump’s Facebook account was used to post statements like, “We love you. You’re very special,” and “remember this day forever” and called the rioters “great patriots”. These posts supported people performing acts of violence, and that breaks the rules set out for Facebook and Instagram. The board ruled that after a long time of posting about electoral fraud and posting with calls to action for his followers, that the Facebook account was being used in a way that posed a serious risk of violence.
Due to these violations, the Oversight Board ruled that Facebook was justified in suspending Donald Trump’s account on January 6, 2021 and then extending that suspension the following day. However, the board that it is not appropriate under the guidelines for Facebook to make that suspension “indefinite”. The Oversight Board suggested that Facebook make an official decision about actions moving forward on Donald Trump’s account within the next six months. That action may be a permanent ban, giving him his account back at that time, or possibly even setting a specific date for him to have his account back. The Oversight Board says that an action plan must be put in place and “indefinitely” is not appropriate and that is not a “clear, published procedure”. The guidelines never say anything about “indefinite” suspensions.
Notably, the board said this: “In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities. The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.”
That part of their post sounds like the Oversight Board is pushing Facebook to be bolder in their decision making in this matter. It’s understandable that the company is hesitant when it comes to this particular account. Facebook is facing a great deal of public judgment from all sides on this matter. How they handle the Facebook account of Donald Trump will set a precedent for how the company should handle similar matters with worldwide politicial leaders moving forward. Does Facebook want that kind of responsibility? Probably not, but that’s part of the job of running a community website.
While Facebook continues to hold Donald Trump’s account in suspension, and will eventually be forced to make a final decision on this matter, Twitter permanently banned Trump. They wrote about this decision on their website on January 8, 2021. This was notable as Twitter used to be Trump’s favorite social media platform. Many of his Facebook posts were actually cross-posts his team pulled from Trump’s Twitter account.
For now, Trump’s Facebook account remains in limbo. His Twitter account is gone. But that doesn’t mean he is leaving social media behind forever. In fact, according to his adviser, Donald Trump is currently working on creating his own social media platform. He’s a few months away from seeing that realized.