Facebook suspension of Trump to last 2 years

Henrietta Brewer
June 5, 2021

FACEBOOK HAS SAID that it will uphold its ban on former US President Donald Trump from using the platform for two more years, and he will only be allowed to return if "conditions permit".

When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.

Activists joined together in a group that facetiously calls itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board decried the social network's latest steps as belated and insufficient. He added that additional scrutiny would be applied to Trump's account when it is restored, and that he could still be permanently banned from the platform for future behavior.

Facebook has come under fire from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech, but has also been criticized by those, including Republican lawmakers and some free-expression advocates, who saw the Trump ban as a disturbing act of censorship.

But in doing so, the board criticised the open-ended nature of the suspension, stating that "it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension".

In a major reversal, Facebook said Friday it would end its policy that shields politicians from some content moderation rules because their content is considered "newsworthy". The company says it has never used the newsworthiness exemption for any of Trump's posts. Facebook took the board's recommendations into account and determined that at the end of the two-year suspension it would look to "instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest" to determine if Trump's accounts were still a threat to public safety. Facebook said it was enacting the request "in part" by continuing to cooperate with law enforcement inquiries related to January 6 and regularly reviewing their policies.

"We will simply apply our newsworthiness balancing test in the same way to all content, measuring whether the public interest value of the content outweighs the potential risk of harm by leaving it up", Clegg said. It slammed the company, saying, "The same rules should apply to all users of the platform".

Those posts violated Facebook's rules against praising or supporting people engaged in violence, the board said, warranting the suspension. Others can still read and comment on Trump's past posts, but he and other account handlers are unable to post new material.

Policy questions: In accordance with its bylaws, the board also issued recommendations for how Facebook should change or reconsider its policies, including on global leaders and influential users.

Facebook's new enforcement protocols enable it to restrict "public figures" for one month, six months, one year or two years if they violate the site's rules "during times of civil unrest and ongoing violence".

In addition, once they're allowed back on Facebook, these users will face "heightened penalties" including permanent bans.

However, a Facebook spokesman confirmed that politicians' posts would still be exempt from third-party fact-checking.

"Once again, Facebook fails to do the right thing to protect our democracy", said Jim Steyer, founder of the left-leaning Common Sense Media advocacy group.

Editor's note: Facebook is among NPR's financial supporters.

Other reports by iNewsToday