Facebook’s Oversight Board, the independent panel charged with making final content moderation decisions, is upholding the company’s decision to keep Donald Trump off of the social media platform. But the decision to ban Trump without a set timeline, the panel ruled, was not appropriate. The board is recommending the company review the issue once again within six months.
The closely watched announcement on Wednesday comes after Facebook decided to temporarily ban Trump in the immediate wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection, later tasking the board with making a ruling on whether to restore the former president down the road.
“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 panel wrote in a statement.
“However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension,” adding that, “the Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response.”
As my colleague Pema Levy wrote, the decision marks a critical moment for the social media giant, which has faced years of intense criticism over its refusal to clamp down on disinformation and harmful content, particularly during the Trump era. In 2018, amid growing calls for government regulation, CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered the Oversight Board as a potential alternative. But serious questions over its independence and utility loom:
While the company has touted it as an independent body that will make final content moderation decisions, thus far, the board has only decided a handful of cases, and concerns about its true independence remain. The outcome of the Trump case could either help build the body’s reputation among academics and civil and human rights advocates as a valuable shield against harmful content—or dash hopes, both in the board and in Facebook’s broader future as an ally of democracy and enemy of hate.
This is a breaking news post. We’ll have more on Facebook’s announcement shortly.