Donald Trump Is Not Coming Back To Facebook...For Now

After using social media to sow doubt in the results of the 2020 election, the former president was suspended indefinitely from the platform.

Former President Donald Trump listens to a roundtable discussion in Kenosha, WI, on September 1, 2020. | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump listens to a roundtable discussion in Kenosha, WI, on September 1, 2020. | Getty Images

Donald Trump will remain suspended from Facebook and Instagram, the Facebook Oversight Board announced Wednesday. The former president had been indefinitely suspended back in January after the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection. 

“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 Oversight Board wrote in a news release on May 5. 

However, the Oversight Board said punishing the former president with the “standardless penalty of indefinite suspension” was “not appropriate.” 

“Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account,” the Oversight Board wrote. 

The body, which was recently formed and oversees some of Facebook’s decisions, said the company has six months to decide how long the suspension should be in place. That decision, the Oversight Board said, “must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm.”

A Facebook spokesperson responded Wednesday to the Oversight Board's decision, saying the company will "determine an action that is clear and proportionate."

At the time of the former president’s indefinite suspension, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post that despite violating the platform’s policies, Trump was allowed to use the platform because the company believes the public should have “access to political speech, even controversial speech.” However, Facebook shifted its messaging after Trump lied for months about the 2020 election and played a role in the deadly riots at the Capitol.

“The current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government,” Zuckerberg wrote at the time.

Later in January, Facebook referred its decision to suspend Trump to the Oversight Board.

The Oversight Board consists of 20 experts in varied disciplines including human rights law and journalism. Zuckerberg first proposed the idea of a body that oversees the platform’s particularly contentious decisions on speech and expression in a 2018 blog post. The Oversight Board began taking cases in October 2020.

The Oversight Board is funded by a trust that Facebook set up, and the company insists that the Board makes decisions independently. But detractors say the Board is simply a stunt — a way for Facebook to skirt responsibility on making tough calls and a way to deflect criticism when difficult decisions need to be made.

The Trump decision, which is by far the most anticipated and consequential, is the Board’s 10th decision. Before this decision, the Board overturned six of Facebook’s decisions and upheld two of them. On one occasion, the Board said it couldn’t complete a ruling.

Trump was permanently suspended by Twitter after the riots at the Capitol. He’s also not allowed on YouTube, but CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March that the ban will be lifted when the risk of violence decreases. After his role in the Capitol riot, Trump became the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

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