If you thought that Facebook would realize its decision to ban Trump from their platform was ridiculous and unjustified, well, you were wrong. On Wednesday, their Oversight Board, which was created last year to hear appeals from users over matters of content moderation, decided to keep the ban in place… for now.
“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,” their decision read. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
In the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot, Facebook and other social media sites banned Trump from their platforms. Alternative social media site Parler, which was accused of enabling planning for the riots, was kicked off of its web hosting service and booted from Google’s and Apple’s app stores. After weeks of being shut down, Parler has since returned online. Gab, a free-speech alternative to Twitter that doesn’t rely on Big Tech for hosting or app store access, experienced incredible growth in the wake of Trump getting banned from Twitter and Facebook.
The Oversight Board called on Facebook to “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,” and said this should be done with six months of their decision. The Board also suggested policy recommendations “to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression.”
The supposedly independent board has twenty members worldwide, and their decisions are not binding, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to abide by their rulings.
There is no evidence that Trump incited any violence on January 6th. In fact, Trump specifically called for peaceful assembly at the Capitol. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” he said.
Trump is reportedly planning to launch his own social media platform that Trump’s 2020 campaign spokesman Jason Miller says will “completely redefine the game,” and is expected to attract “tens of millions” of new users.
Their ruling still leaves open the possibility the ban could be lifted. “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.”