Facebook Inc’s oversight board on Wednesday (May 5) upheld the company’s suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump but said the company was wrong to make the suspension indefinite and gave it six months to determine a “proportionate response.”
In the much-awaited verdict that has been watched for signals on how world’s largest social network will treat rule-breaking world leaders in the future, the board said Facebook had inappropriately imposed an indeterminate suspension without clear standards and that the decision required a company review.
The Board said Facebook should determine a response that is consistent with rules applied to other users of the platform. It said the company could determine that Trump’s account could be restored, suspended temporarily or permanently banned.
In an interview with Reuters, former Danish Prime Minister and oversight board member Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the board was very clear in telling Facebook it did the right thing by removing Trump from the platform. However, she added, that Facebook needs to uphold its own standards, policies and sanctions.
In its decision, the board said Facebook refused to answer some of the 46 questions it posed, including those on how its news feed and other features affected the visibility of Trump’s posts and whether the company planned to look into how its technology amplified content as it had done in the events leading to the Capitol siege.
Facebook indefinitely blocked Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts over concerns of further violent unrest following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump supporters. It was one of a slew of social media sites that barred the former president after the riot, including Twitter Inc , where he is banned permanently.
Trump blasted the board’s decision and the tech platform bans. “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country,” he said in a statement warning that these companies will pay a political price. “Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before.”
Tech platforms have grappled in recent years with how to police world leaders and politicians that violate their guidelines. Facebook has come under fire both from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech and those who saw the Trump ban as a worrying act of censorship.
(Production: Kristin Neubauer)