Trump Facebook ban: What did ex-president post to get himself suspended?

Facebook Oversight Board announces decision on ex-president’s access to platform

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 04 June 2021 18:47
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Donald Trump’s Return To Facebook Hinges On Oversight Board Ruling

Donald Trump has been banned from Facebook for at least two years, the social media giant announced on 4 June.

His account, according to the company, will remain suspended until 7 January 2023, and he will only be reinstated if the “risk to public safety has receded.” Even if the bombastic ex-president does return, he will face “a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” that would be applied if he broke more user rules.

When Donald Trump was banned “indefinitely” by Facebook in the wake of January’s US Capitol attack it became the first social media company to meaningfully silence him.

Mark Zuckerberg said at the time his dramatic action against the then-president was essential to prevent more political violence ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

It was the most high-profile ban in the company’s history and a move that was quickly followed by other social media giants.

The ban was welcomed as long overdue by critics of the president and was blasted by conservatives as the ultimate example of Big Tech political “censorship.”

Facebook’s independent Oversight Board, a body which scrutinizes high-profile decisions about its users, upheld the initial suspension of Mr Trump in May, but they criticised the company over the indefinite time period, which led Mr Zuckerberg to introducing a time period for suspensions.

Facebook’s decision to ban the twice-impeached president was the culmination of six years of struggling to deal with the controversial businessman-turned-politician.

In 2015 when he was still only a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr Trump posted a video calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US.

Facebook refused to take it down and created the “newsworthiness” policy that allowed posts which broke their own guidelines to remain up because of public interest.

During 2020 Mr Trump used Facebook to post a string of misleading information about Covid-19 and attacked racial justice protesters as “thugs.”

With criticism of the company’s approach to Mr Trump deepening, Facebook announced in June 2020 that it would put labels on posts that violated hate speech and other policies, even if they were from politicians such as Mr Trump.

And they committed to remove any posts which incited violence or voter suppression, regardless of newsworthiness.

But it was Mr Trump’s response to his own supporters attacking the Capitol on 6 January, in an attempt to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, that finally brought about his ban.

Five people, including a police officer died, in the MAGA riot, and Mr Trump eventually posted a video on Facebook and Instagram urging his supporters to leave the Capitol and go home.

But infamously Mr Trump also took the opportunity to tell them: “We love you, you’re very special.”

After the video was posted, Facebook immediately suspended Mr Trump for 24 hours, and Mr Zuckerberg announced on 7 January that the ban was indefinite.

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” he said.

And two weeks later the company announced that the Oversight Board would make the final decision in the case.

“Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own. We agree,” wrote Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs, in a statement at the time.

“Every day, Facebook makes decisions about whether content is harmful, and these decisions are made according to Community Standards we have developed over many years. 

“It would be better if these decisions were made according to frameworks agreed by democratically accountable lawmakers. 

“But in the absence of such laws, there are decisions that we cannot duck.”

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