Facebook’s independent oversight board ruled on Wednesday to uphold the company’s January decision to suspend former president Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The oversight panel also told the social-media giant to rethink the “indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension” that it imposed on Trump after the Capitol riot, and “insisted” the company find a “proportionate response” within six months. “It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored,” the board wrote. The social-media giant indefinitely booted Trump from its platforms after the January 6 riot at the Capitol, citing concerns that Trump would incite further violence while refusing to accept Joe Biden’s election victory. As the riot was unfolding, Trump posted a message to Facebook and Instagram urging his supporters to go home, but he also restated the lie that the election had been “stolen” following his “landslide” win, and told the rioters, “We love you. You’re very special.” Facebook removed that post, and a few hours later Trump posted a second message claiming the election had been “unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots.” That message was removed as well, and Trump was blocked from posting for 24 hours.
The next day, Facebook extended the block “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post at the time. The company then referred the case to its recently established board.
Facebook created the oversight panel last year to make final calls on thorny content on its platforms. It operates like a Supreme Court for content: The social-media company can refer cases, or individual users can submit petitions to appeal the company’s content-moderation decisions. It’s an independent entity made up of journalists, human-rights activists, lawyers, and academics.
Trump was also permanently banned from Twitter earlier this year. The former president launched his own message board — a section of his website titled “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” — a day before Facebook’s decision on the ban.