Facebook’s independent oversight board yesterday upheld the platform’s ban on former US president Donald Trump while ordering further review of the case, in a decision with a potentially far-reaching impact on the regulation of online speech.
The board, whose decisions are binding on the leading social network, said Trump “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” with his comments regarding the January 6 rampage by his supporters at the US Capitol.
“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” the board said after its review.
But the panel also ruled that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”
“Within six months of this decision, Facebook must reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty,” the review board said in its written opinion.
The case had been intensely followed for its repercussions for social networks seeking to curb misinformation and abusive content while remaining open to political discourse.
Trump was suspended from Facebook and Instagram after he posted a video during the deadly January 6 storming of the Capitol in which he told his supporters: “We love you, you’re very special.”
The US leader was banned permanently by Facebook the following day, and he was taken off other platforms including Twitter and YouTube.
Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, responding to the decision, said it would have a chilling effect on free speech and that Facebook needed to be regulated or broken up.