Facebook oversight board upholds Trump ban but calls indefinite suspension ‘not appropriate’

CALIFORNIA (Fox News): Facebook’s Oversight Board on Wednesday upheld former President Donald Trump’s ban from Facebook and Instagram, but said it was “not appropriate” for Facebook to impose the “indeterminate and standard less penalty of indefinite suspension.”

“The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account,” the board announced Wednesday morning.

But the board gave Facebook six months to review the “arbitrary” indefinite ban, saying in a tweet that the company “violated its own rules.”

“Facebook cannot make up the rules as it goes, and anyone concerned about its power should be concerned about allowing this,” the board said in a statement. “Having clear rules that apply to all users and Facebook is essential for ensuring the company treats users fairly.”

The board in January accepted a case referral from Facebook to examine the ban, as well as to provide policy recommendations on suspensions when the user is a political leader.

“Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account,” the board said Wednesday, insisting 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.” 

The Oversight Board, ahead of its announcement, outlined the ways in which it makes decisions.

The board selects cases that affect many users and “are of critical importance to public discourse, and/or raise important questions about Facebook’s policies.”  The board says the panel is “diverse” and comprised of five randomly chosen members. The panel then considers information from the user, Facebook, outside experts, and public comments to reach a draft decision.

The panel looks at whether content violates Facebook’s Community Standards and values, as well as international human rights standards. The draft decision is then circulated to all members of the board for review, and a majority of board members must sign off for a decision to be published.

The decision is then published on their website, and Facebook is required to implement decisions within seven days, and respond publicly to recommendations within 30 days.

The board’s decision comes after Trump, on Tuesday afternoon, rolled out a new communications platform, “From the desk of Donald J. Trump.”

The space allows Trump to post comments, images and videos, and allows followers to share the former president’s posts to Twitter and Facebook, though it does not have a feature letting users “reply” or engage with Trump’s posts.

The technology is powered by Campaign Nucleus — the “digital ecosystem made for efficiently managing political campaigns and organizations,” created by his former campaign manager, Brad Parscale.

“This is just a one-way communication,” one source familiar with the space told Fox News. “This system allows Trump to communicate with his followers.”

Trump’s new platform surfaced Tuesday, after advisers had told Fox News that the former president planned to “move forward” to create a social media platform of his own after being banned from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat after the Capitol riot.

“President Trump’s website is a great resource to find his latest statements and highlights from his first term in office, but this is not a new social media platform,” senior advisor Jason Miller told Fox News. “We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future.”

Facebook moved to block Trump “indefinitely” after the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg writing that they “believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube announced they were permanently banning Trump after the riot.

Since then, Facebook has taken steps to limit Trump from appearing on the platform, even through other accounts.

Last month, Facebook removed a video of an interview with Trump conducted by his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, saying any content “in the voice of Donald Trump” would be scrubbed from the social media platform.

A group of Trump officials was sent an email from a Facebook employee before the interview was posted, warning that any content posted on Facebook and Instagram “in the voice of President Trump is not currently allowed on our platforms (including new posts with President Trump speaking)” and warned that it “will be removed if posted, resulting in additional limitations on accounts that posted it.”

“This guidance applies to all campaign accounts and Pages, including Team Trump, other campaign messaging vehicles on our platforms, and former surrogates,” the email, posted on Instagram by Trump’s son, Eric Trump, said.

A source familiar confirmed the authenticity of the messages to Fox News.

Twitter wrote in a blog post in January that the ban was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

For years, before and during his presidency, Trump used Twitter to communicate directly to the American people, bypassing the media.