An independent Oversight Board for Facebook ruled Wednesday to uphold its suspension of former President Donald Trump. The company suspended the then-President after the January 6th riots on the United States Capitol, claiming the president used the platforms to incite what transpired.
But, the board said, the indefinite timeframe of the suspension “was not appropriate.” The board effectively punted the decision on the length of the suspension back to Facebook, saying it “insists” the company “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 board asked that Facebook complete the review within six months and made suggestions for how to create clear policies that balance public safety and freedom of expression.
“We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate,” Facebook said in a blog post following the announcement.
“In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended.”
At the time of the January suspension, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post to his own Facebook page, “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” CNBC writes:
Facebook referred the decision to its Oversight Board a few weeks later, saying that given the significance of the decision, “we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld.”
The decision to uphold Trump’s suspension is the most significant action taken thus far by Facebook’s Oversight Board, which was launched in October 2020 as a de facto “Supreme Court” for the company’s content moderation decisions. The board is an independent body made up of civic, technological, free speech, journalism and human rights experts from around the world. A randomly selected but diverse group of five board members were chosen to deliberate on the case, and the recommendation had to be voted favorably by a majority of the full board.
Facebook has agreed to abide by the Oversight Board’s rulings, even though Zuckerberg still has undisputed control of the company, with majority voting control over the company’s shares.