Facebook’s January decision to ban Donald Trump left many people who dislike Trump and the social media giant feeling like they had to pick sides.
There’s no need for that. That’s one takeaway from comments on Sunday by Michael McConnell, a Stanford University law professor who is co-chair of Facebook’s Oversight Board. Appearing on Fox News, McConnell faulted Facebook for its failure to set out clear rules governing content, while also batting aside claims that the company treated Trump unfairly.
“Trump is the one who issued those inflammatory posts at the very time when rioters were invading the Congress and shutting down the constitutionally prescribed process for counting electoral votes,” McConnell told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “He issued those posts. He is responsible for doing that. He bears responsibility for his own situation. He put himself in this bed and he can sleep in it.”
McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge nominated by President George W. Bush, appeared on Fox to defend the board’s May 5 decision to extend Facebook’s ban on Trump while recommending that the company itself, not the board, review the question again within six months. The board said that Trump’s January 6 posts complimenting rioters “severely violated” Facebook’s rules against praise for people engaged in violence and that his lies about election fraud “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.”
McConnell said Facebook’s rules governing content are a mess. “We gave them a certain amount of time to get their house in order,” he said. “They needed some time because their rules are a shambles. They are not transparent. They are unclear. They are internally inconsistent.”
But he rejected claims by Trump and many of his supporters that a private company barring Trump from posting violates his right to free speech. “He has no First Amendment rights” on the platform, McConnell said. “He’s customer. Facebook is not a government, and he is not a citizen of Facebook.”
“No judge in the country would rule” in Trump’s favor, McConnell said.