Facebook’s ban on former US President Donald Trump can remain, but must be reviewed within six months, the company’s independent oversight board has ruled.
Facebook blocked Mr Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts amid concerns of further violent unrest following the January 6 storming of the US Capitol by supporters of the former president.
The oversight board, often referred to as its ‘Supreme Court’, has upheld the decision to block Mr Trump, but said Facebook had six months to either ban him permanently or announce when he could resume posting.
‘A total disgrace’ says Trump
Mr Trump responded to the board’s ruling with a statement.
“What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country,” he said.
“Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it!
“These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”
Risk of violence too great
When Facebook blocked Mr Trump from posting in January, its justification was that his social media posts “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible”.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great”.
The company referred the case to its recently established board, which includes academics, former politicians, lawyers and rights activists.
Ban should be permanent or for a set time, board rules
The independent board said two posts by Mr Trump on January 6, while self-styled “patriots” violently stormed the US Capitol to try to halt confirmation of Joe Biden as US President, severely violated Facebook and Instagram’s community standards and guidelines.
Mr Trump’s posts “We love you. You’re very special” and “great patriots … remember this day forever” violated Facebook’s rules prohibiting praise or support of people engaged in violence, it said.
But while the board agreed that ongoing risk “justified” the move, it also ruled that an indefinite ban was a step too far, mainly because it was too vague.
It ordered Facebook to review the ban within six months and decide on a permanent ban or give Mr Trump a date when he could return.
“It was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension,” it said.
“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.”
How to solve a problem like Trump?
Mr Trump has 35 million Facebook followers. Although his often-incendiary tweets garnered the most attention during his presidency, Facebook was an important tool for fund-raising as well as getting messages direct to his supporters.
He was permanently banned from Twitter on January 8.
Facebook has also asked the board to provide recommendations on how it should handle political leaders’ accounts.
It has said Mr Trump would be subject to the same policies as ordinary users following the end of his presidency.
This means that if Mr Trump is allowed back, his posts will be subject to fact-checking.
Following a widening of the board’s scope in April, Facebook users will also be able to appeal the former president’s posts to the board.
Trump’s own social media solution
Mr Trump this week launched a new web space, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump”, to share messages that readers are able to re-post to their own social media accounts.
He also has plans to launch his own social media platform, according to a senior adviser.