Facebook vice president Nick Clegg says the company is referring its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump from its platform to its newly established oversight board for a complete review. Trump’s Facebook account was suspended indefinitely on January 7th after he incited his followers to attack the US Capitol on January 6th. Six people died in the ensuing riots.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service… are simply too great.”
Facebook officials maintain that suspending Trump’s accounts was the right call. But given the significance of the decision, it has referred the case to the Oversight Board. Trump will remain locked out of Facebook and Instagram until the board makes its ruling.
“Whether you believe the decision was justified or not, many people are understandably uncomfortable with the idea that tech companies have the power to ban elected leaders. Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own. We agree,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, wrote in a blog post. “It would be better if these decisions were made according to frameworks agreed by democratically accountable lawmakers. But in the absence of such laws, there are decisions that we cannot duck.”
The Oversight Board has accepted the case. As ever, Facebook will have to abide by its decision. “The Board was created to address exactly these kinds of issues,” board members said in a statement. “We provide a critical independent check on Facebook’s decisions which have huge implications for global human rights and free expression. This case is important for people in the US, and around the world.”
A five-member panel will assess whether the content that led to Trump’s ban violated Facebook’s rules and values. “They will also consider whether Facebook’s removal of the content respected international human rights standards, including on freedom of expression and other human rights,” the Oversight Board said. Board members will vote on the decision after the the panel shares its findings with them.
For the entirety of his presidency, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms had resisted calls to ban Trump for using their platforms for everything from threatening violence to attempting to undermine the November presidential election. Twitter and Facebook applied labels to false messages from the former president that seemed to do little to deter him.
Clegg acknowledged that there’s an argument to be made whether private companies like Facebook should make such decisions on their own. “We agree. Every day, Facebook makes decisions about whether content is harmful, and these decisions are made according to Community Standards we have developed over many years,” he said. “It would be better if these decisions were made according to frameworks agreed by democratically accountable lawmakers. But in the absence of such laws, there are decisions that we cannot duck.”