Facebook given 6 months to specify length of Trump ban

San Francisco, May 5 (EFE).- Facebook’s suspension of Donald Trump’s accounts was deemed to be justified by the social media giant’s international Oversight Board, but that body on Wednesday gave the company six months to specify precisely how long the ban on the ex-president of the United States will last.

Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram (one of the company’s subsidiaries) have been suspended since the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol building by a large group of the then-president’s supporters, many of whom had gone to Washington DC to attend his “Stop the Steal” rally.

That violent action, which occurred while a joint session of the US Congress was being held in the nation’s capital to certify then-President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer who was defending the building and died a day later after suffering two strokes.

In a ruling published on Wednesday, the Oversight Board said Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump’s accounts was justified because two of the then-president’s posts expressing support for the rioters “severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards and Instagram’s Community Guidelines.”

Specifically, the board objected to a video posted on Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 6 in which Trump said “we love you” and “you’re very special” in reference to people who had unlawfully entered the Capitol and a Facebook post that same day in which he called those same people “patriots” and told them to “remember this day forever!”

The board said that language “violated Facebook’s rules prohibiting praise or support of people engaged in violence.”

But the decision to “keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored,” was arbitrary and impermissible, according to that independent body, which was created by Facebook to help it make content moderation decisions.

“For a sanction to not be considered arbitrary, it should be contemplated in Facebook’s internal rules, (and the sanction applied to Trump) is not,” Colombian attorney Catalina Botero-Marino, one of the oversight board’s 20 members, said in an interview with Efe after the decision was published.

She added that the Menlo Park, California-based company needs to apply preexisting rules to show that its decisions are not ideologically motivated.

The former president issued a statement after the decision was handed down, slamming the actions by Facebook, Twitter and Google (in barring new uploads to Trump’s YouTube channel) as a “total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country” and once again alleging that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“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,” he said.

Besides asking its Oversight Board to weigh in on the Trump ban, Facebook on Jan. 21 also asked that body to issue recommendations about possible future account-level suspensions of political leaders.

In that regard, the 20-member board ruled that if a head of state or senior government official repeatedly publishes 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” and may, when appropriate, delete it altogether. EFE


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