Facebook’s Oversight Board upholds Trump ban

5 May 2021

Donald Trump. Image: A Katz/Shutterstock

While the board agreed with the decision to ban Donald Trump, it said Facebook was too ‘vague’ in its move to impose an indefinite ban.

Facebook’s Oversight Board has upheld the social network’s ban against former US president Donald Trump.

The Oversight Board, which acts as a sort of court system for contentious content moderation decisions on the platform, had been investigating the decision to ban Trump from Facebook and Instagram following the storming of the US Capitol in January.

Facebook suspended Trump from its platforms following posts he made that appeared to praise the rioters and potentially incite further violence.

The Oversight Board found that his remarks “severely violated” both Facebook and Instagram’s community guidelines and that “given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr Trump’s accounts”.

While the board upheld the ban, it was critical of Facebook’s decision to implement an indefinite ban. It advised that this practice and how it is applied to any user should be reviewed.

“[It] was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension,” the ruling said.

“The board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”

Facebook has six months to respond to the Oversight Board’s ruling and its advice on indefinite suspension, which effectively puts the tough decision on whether to restore Trump’s account or permanently ban him back on the lap of Mark Zuckerberg and co.

“In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” it said.

The Oversight Board was established by Facebook as an independent entity that would review controversial content moderation or suspension decisions that the company makes. Several academics, lawyers and activists sit on the board.

Trump was permanently banned by Twitter and several other social media sites and online services in the wake of the Capitol attacks.

Yesterday (4 May), Trump launched his own ‘communications’ platform that is essentially a blog for the ex-president. Trump has yet to post on his new platform about the Oversight Board’s decision.

US president Donald Trump. Image: A Katz/Shutterstock

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin