In the aftermath of the storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, then-President Donald Trump was banned or suspended from multiple social media platforms for allegedly inciting the deadly riot. While some platforms like Twitter suspended Trump permanently, Facebook stated in January that the duration of Trump’s suspension was “indefinite,” suggesting the former president may one day be allowed to use Facebook and Instagram again.
Four months after the Capitol riot, Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent body that makes the final call on Facebook’s content decisions, upheld the company’s decision to suspend Trump. The board determined that two posts Trump made on Jan 6. did in fact violate Facebook and Instagram’s community guidelines, and concluded that Facebook was justified to suspend Trump’s accounts.
However, the board ruled that Facebook was not justified to suspend Trump indefinitely. In a statement, the board called it a “standardless” penalty.
“In applying this penalty, Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure, the board elaborated. “‘Indefinite’ suspensions are not described in the company’s content policies. 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 gave Facebook six months to make its final decision regarding Trump’s presence on its platforms, while also stating that the company had to reassess the penalty of indefinite suspension given to Trump.
One thing the board did not specify was an appropriate duration for Trump’s suspension.
Speaking for the company in a statement, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, thanked the board for its ruling and its attention to the case.
“We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate,” Clagg said. “In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended.”
In his own statement, Trump claimed that his rights of free speech had been violated while once again claiming he had won the 2020 election.
“What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country,” Trump said. “These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”
Regardless of whether Trump likes the decision, he remains unable to use Facebook and Instagram as the company deliberates granting him access again or banning him permanently. Trump, and the rest of the country, will know the final decision no later than November.