Facebook Oversight Board upholds Donald Trump ban, but says Facebook ‘violated its own rules’

On Wednesday, May 5, Facebook’s Oversight Board decided to uphold Donald Trump’s January 7, 2021, ban from the social media platform, as well as Instagram. However, the Oversight Board wrote: “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”

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In Facebook’s Oversight Board post upholding the ban on former President Donald Trump, the Board wrote that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”

Adding that, “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 is calling on Facebook to “review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”

The Board says they will give Facebook six months to complete the review of its actions.

Furthermore, the Oversight Board wrote that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.”

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.

In applying this penalty, Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure. ‘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.

It is Facebook’s role to create necessary and proportionate penalties that respond to severe violations of its content policies. The Board’s role is to ensure that Facebook’s rules and processes are consistent with its content policies, its values and its human rights commitments.

In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities. The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.

On a post on Twitter, the Oversight Board wrote,

Restrictions on speech are often imposed by powerful state actors against dissidents and political oppositions. Facebook must resist pressure from governments to silence political opposition, and stand up for free expression.

More details to come.

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