But Facebook warned that Trump’s Facebook and Instagram would face a “strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” if he violates the company’s rules again after being reinstated on Jan. 7, 2023.
Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram were frozen the day after the attack on the U.S. Capitol for his praise of supporters who stormed it.
“When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts,” Facebook said Friday.
Also on Friday, Facebook said it would no longer grant politicians special exemptions from its content policies after the social media giant faced a firestorm of criticism for being unclear on how and why it treats the speech of world leaders differently than any other user.
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Trump condemned Facebook’s decision in a statement.
“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75 (million) people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” he wrote. “They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”
The Biden White House said it expected Facebook’s decision to be addressed during Friday’s press briefing.
Facebook’s Oversight Board – a quasi-independent panel of experts funded by Facebook – ruled that suspending Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was the right move, but said it was not appropriate to impose an indefinite suspension and instructed the company to review the matter within six months, opening the door to Trump’s possible return.
“In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself,” Facebook said.
Trump lost his direct link to supporters when he was booted from the nation’s top social media platforms following the Capitol attack. He has relied instead on a patchwork of press releases and personal messages, television interviews, emails and robocalls to reach supporters. This week he pulled the plug on a blog “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” due to low readership.
Facebook also announced new “enforcement protocols” for exceptional cases like Trump’s.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols,” Facebook said.
In a statement, Facebook’s Oversight Board declined to comment until it had a chance to review the company’s response.
In announcing that Trump could rejoin his millions of followers in two years, Facebook acknowledged that the decision would be roundly criticized by conservatives and liberals alike. The right for years accused mainstream social media companies of censoring their speech. The left had campaigned for Trump to be permanently banned as he was on Twitter and Snapchat.
“There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing President from its platform, and many others who believe Mr. Trump should have immediately been banned for life,” the company said. “Our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible, in keeping with the instruction given to us by the Oversight Board.”
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A group of critics who call themselves the Real Facebook Oversight Board lashed out at the decision.
“While many people will breathe a sigh of relief today that Facebook has banned Donald Trump for a further two years, this decision only goes to underline the enormous, unchecked power of Facebook and its repeated failure to police its platform,” the group said in a statement. “Donald Trump and his allies used Facebook to incite an insurrection and attempted coup of the United States Government. The punishment: Back on Facebook just in time for Trump 2024, with no explanation at all why a two-year ban, or what the criteria is for determining his status when the ban expires.”
As part of Friday’s announcement, Facebook said it would remove content from world leaders if “the risk of harm outweighs the public interest.”
“We allow certain content that is newsworthy or important to the public interest to remain on our platform – even if it might otherwise violate our Community Standards. We may also limit other enforcement consequences, such as demotions, when it is in the public interest to do so,” Facebook said.
But, moving forward, when it judges the newsworthiness of content, it will not treat content posted by politicians differently than that of any other user, Facebook said, “measuring whether the public interest value of the content outweighs the potential risk of harm by leaving it up.”
Previously the speech of world leaders was much less likely to be restricted or removed when they violated the social media company’s content moderation policies.
Contributing: Michael Collins