05 May 2021

Facebook continues to gag Donald Trump after oversight board probe

05 May 2021

A ban on Donald Trump from using Facebook has been upheld by the social network’s oversight board – though the group raised concerns about the indeterminate duration of the measure.

The former US president was blocked from the platform indefinitely following violent clashes in the US Capitol on January 6, which Mr Trump was blamed for inciting.

Videos shared across the 74-year-old’s social accounts called those who stormed the Capitol ‘patriots’ and said: “We love you.”

The siege resulted in five people losing their lives.

The board concluded that two posts by Mr Trump “severely violated” Facebook’s Community Standard but said it was “not appropriate” for the social network to impose “the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension”.

“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” the board said.

“However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.

“It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored.”

Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said the firm is “pleased” the board recognised the “unprecedented circumstances”.

“While the board has not required Facebook to immediately restore Mr Trump’s accounts, it has not specified the appropriate duration of the penalty,” he said.

“We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate. In the meantime, Mr Trump’s accounts remain suspended.”

People can submit an appeal to the panel if they think content was wrongly removed.

The board takes on a handful of cases every few months and assesses Facebook’s initial verdict.

Their conclusions are binding and even overrule chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, meaning Facebook has seven days to reverse any removals – unless doing so could break the law.

The board is made up of a number of experts from various fields ranging from government and journalism, to digital rights and law.

Former Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger and Denmark’s former prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt are among its members.

The tech giant has six months to complete a review.

Facebook set up a panel last year, often likened to a supreme court, made up of independent experts from various backgrounds, who are granted the power to overrule the tech giant’s actions on thorny content moderation issues – even that of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

When announcing the move in January, Mr Zuckerberg said a ban was issued because Mr Trump had used the platform to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government”.

It comes as the former US president launched his own blog-like communications channel, after he lost access to all social networks which he used prolifically prior to and during his tenure in the White House.

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