Facebook Oversight Board upholds Trump ban but calls indefinite suspension 'not appropriate'

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Facebook's Oversight Board on Wednesday upheld former President Donald Trump's ban from Facebook and Instagram, but said it was "not appropriate" for Facebook to impose the "indeterminate and standard less penalty of indefinite suspension." 

"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 board announced Wednesday morning. 

But the board gave Facebook six months to review the "arbitrary" indefinite ban, saying in a tweet that the company "violated its own rules."

"Facebook cannot make up the rules as it goes, and anyone concerned about its power should be concerned about allowing this," the board said in a statement. "Having clear rules that apply to all users and Facebook is essential for ensuring the company treats users fairly."

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The board in January accepted a case referral from Facebook to examine the ban, as well as to provide policy recommendations on suspensions when the user is a political leader.

"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 said Wednesday, insisting that Facebook "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."  

As for recommendations on suspensions for high-profile users like Trump, the board said that "it is not always useful to draw a firm distinction between political leaders and other influential users, recognizing that other users with large audiences can also contribute to serious risks of harm." 

"While the same rules should apply to all users, context matters when assessing the probability and imminence of harm," the board said. "When posts by influential users pose a high probability of imminent harm, Facebook should act quickly to enforce its rules. Although Facebook explained that it did not apply its ‘newsworthiness’ allowance in this case, the Board called on Facebook to address widespread confusion about how decisions relating to influential users are made." 

The board added that "considerations of newsworthiness should not take priority when urgent action is needed to prevent significant harm."

The board also urged Facebook to "publicly explain the rules that it uses when it imposes account-level sanctions against influential users," saying the rules should ensure that when Facebook "imposes a time-limited suspension on the account of an influential user to reduce the risk of significant harm, it will assess whether the risk has receded before the suspension ends." 

"If Facebook identifies that the user poses a serious risk of inciting imminent violence, discrimination or other lawless action at that time, another time-bound suspension should be imposed when such measures are necessary to protect public safety and proportionate to the risk," the board added. 

The board noted that heads of state and other high officials of government can have "a greater power to cause harm than other people." 

"If a head of state or high government official has repeatedly posted messages that pose a risk of harm under international human rights norms, Facebook should suspend the account for a period sufficient to protect against imminent harm," the board said. "Suspension periods should be long enough to deter misconduct and may, in appropriate cases, include account or page deletion." 

Facebook, responding to the board's decision Wednesday, said they believe their move to ban Trump in January was "necessary and right," and are "pleased the board has recognized that the unprecedented circumstances justified the exceptional measure we took." 

Facebook said it will "now consider the board's decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate."

"In the meantime, Mr. Trump's accounts remain suspended," Facebook said, adding that they are reviewing the boards recommendations on policies surrounding political figures.

The board's decision comes after Trump, on Tuesday afternoon, rolled out a new communications platform, "From the desk of Donald J. Trump."

The space allows Trump to post comments, images and videos, and allows followers to share the former president's posts to Twitter and Facebook, though it does not have a feature letting users "reply" or engage with Trump’s posts.

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The technology is powered by Campaign Nucleus — the "digital ecosystem made for efficiently managing political campaigns and organizations," created by his former campaign manager, Brad Parscale.

"This is just a one-way communication," one source familiar with the space told Fox News. "This system allows Trump to communicate with his followers." 

Trump's new platform surfaced Tuesday, after advisers had told Fox News that the former president planned to "move forward" to create a social media platform of his own after being banned from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat after the Capitol riot. 

"President Trump's website is a great resource to find his latest statements and highlights from his first term in office, but this is not a new social media platform," senior advisor Jason Miller told Fox News. "We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future."

Facebook moved to block Trump "indefinitely" after the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg writing that they "believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great."

Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube announced they were permanently banning Trump after the riot.

Since then, Facebook has taken steps to limit Trump from appearing on the platform, even through other accounts. 

Last month, Facebook removed a video of an interview with Trump conducted by his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, saying any content "in the voice of Donald Trump" would be scrubbed from the social media platform.

FACEBOOK REMOVES TRUMP INTERVIEW WITH DAUGHTER-IN-LAW LARA TRUMP 

A group of Trump officials was sent an email from a Facebook employee before the interview was posted, warning that any content posted on Facebook and Instagram "in the voice of President Trump is not currently allowed on our platforms (including new posts with President Trump speaking)" and warned that it "will be removed if posted, resulting in additional limitations on accounts that posted it."

"This guidance applies to all campaign accounts and Pages, including Team Trump, other campaign messaging vehicles on our platforms, and former surrogates," the email, posted on Instagram by Trump's son, Eric Trump, said.

A source familiar confirmed the authenticity of the messages to Fox News.

TRUMP ‘MOVING FORWARD’ WITH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM OF HIS OWN: SOURCES

Twitter wrote in a blog post in January that the ban was "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

For years, before and during his presidency, Trump used Twitter to communicate directly to the American people, bypassing the media.

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But the former president told FOX Business last week that the press release statement that he has been putting out since the ban are getting his message out "in a more elegant way" than a tweet.

"Now … I just put out releases that everybody prints what I say," Trump told host Maria Bartiromo. "I think it's actually much more elegant than Twitter, and it gets the word out just as well. Not everybody can do that, unfortunately."

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