Politics Facebook board's Trump decision could have wider impacts
Trump is Facebook’s problem, again
Your move, Mark.
Since the day after the deadly Jan. 6 riots on the U.S. Capitol, former President Donald Trump's social media accounts have been silent — muzzled for inciting violence using the platforms as online megaphones.
On Wednesday, his fate on Facebook, the biggest social platform around, will be decided. The company's quasi-independent Oversight Board will announce its ruling around 9 a.m. ET. If it rules in Trump's favor, Facebook has seven days to reinstate the account. If the board upholds Facebook's decision, Trump will remain “indefinitely” suspended.
Can the Oversight Board force Facebook to follow its own rules?
Facebook’s Oversight Board finally handed down its most consequential decision to date: whether or not Facebook’s “indefinite” suspension of Donald Trump should be permanent. Except, it only sort of made a decision. In an unexpected twist, the board said that, while it agreed with Facebook’s initial call to suspend Trump, it disagreed with its handling of the situation, and that the company should be the ones to decide whether Trump should be able to return to the platform. So, once again, the fate of Donald Trump’s Facebook account is up in the air. The social network, led by Nick Clegg, has six months to make up its mind.
Politicians, free speech experts and activists around the world are watching the decision closely. It has implications not only for Trump but for tech companies, world leaders and people across the political spectrum — many of whom have wildly conflicting views of the proper role for technology companies when it comes to regulating online speech and protecting people from abuse and misinformation.
After years of handling Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric with a light touch, Facebook and Instagram took the drastic step of silencing his accounts in January. In announcing the unprecedented move, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to continue using the platform was too great.
“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 7.
Facebook’s Made-Up Court Is Better Than No Court at All
The oversight board that upheld Trump’s suspension is obvious a PR gesture, but it’s also the only real check on the social-media platform.But this is the exact question Facebook had asked the board to settle. The board respectfully declined. In fact, the board’s decision resolved essentially nothing—except that Facebook wasn’t exactly wrong on January 7—and leaves open the possibility that this whole charade will happen again before the year is out.
A day before the announcement, Trump unveiled a new blog on his personal website, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.” While the page includes a dramatic video claiming, “A BEACON OF FREEDOM ARISES” and hailing “A PLACE TO SPEAK FREELY AND SAFELY,” the page is little more than a displays of Trump’s recent statements — available elsewhere on the website — that can be easily shared on Facebook and Twitter, the platforms that banished him after the riot.
While Trump aides have spent months teasing his plans to launch his own social media platform, his spokesman Jason Miller said the blog was something separate.
Facebook's oversight board made the right call on Trump. Now it's Zuckerberg's turn
Commentary: The social media company's inconsistent approach to its policies created an untenable situation. The oversight board is pushing for a fix.The 20 members of the quasi-independent board, experts in free expression, human rights and journalism, agreed that the threat of imminent harm required a temporary silencing of the world's most powerful and influential person.
“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,” he tweeted. “We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future.”
Barred from social media, Trump has embraced other platforms for getting his message out. He does frequent interviews with friendly news outlets and has emailed a flurry of statements to reporters through his official office and political group.
Trump has even said he prefers the statements to his old tweets, often describing them as more “elegant.”
Facebook created the oversight panel to rule on thorny content on its platforms following widespread criticism of its difficulty responding swiftly and effectively to misinformation, hate speech and nefarious influence campaigns. Its decisions so far — all nine of them — have tended to favor free expression over the restriction of content.
In its first rulings, the panel overturned four out of five decisions by the social network to take down questionable material. It ordered Facebook to restore posts by users that the company said broke standards on adult nudity, hate speech, or dangerous individuals.
Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one
Facebook's Oversight Board's long-awaited ruling on former President Trump's account ban pushed the decision back to the Silicon Valley giant, fueling calls for government regulation and oversight from both sides of the aisle. Democrats and advocates have criticized the process and the board's decision to leave open the ability for Trump to return, while Republicans have centered their criticism around accusations that Facebook is censoring conservatives through the ban. Trump, unsurprisingly, also slammed the decision - lumping together Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Critics of Facebook, however, worry that the Oversight Board is a mere distraction from the company's deeper problems — ones that can't be addressed in a handful of high-profile cases by a semi-independent body of experts.
“Facebook set the rules, are judge, jury and executioner and control their own appeals court and their own Supreme Court. The decisions they make have an impact on our democracies, national security and biosecurity and cannot be left to their own in house theatre of the absurd,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit critical of Facebook. “Whatever the judgement tomorrow, this whole fiasco shows why we need democratic regulation of Big Tech."
Gautam Hans, a technology law and free speech expert and professor at Vanderbilt University, said he finds the Oversight Board structure to be “frustrating and a bit of a sideshow from the larger policy and social questions that we have about these companies."
“To some degree, Facebook is trying to create an accountability mechanism that I think undermines efforts to have government regulation and legislation,” Hans said. “If any other company decided, well, we’re just going to outsource our decision-making to some quasi-independent body, that would be thought of as ridiculous.”
Associated Press Writer Jill Colvin contributed to this story.
Meet the people deciding Trump’s fate on Facebook .
The ruling by the scholars, lawyers, activists and journalists who make up Facebook’s oversight board will reverberate across the world of social media.The so-called Facebook oversight board has been deliberating Trump’s case since January, when he was booted off after the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol over fears he might incite more violence. Their decision could give the former president back one of his most powerful megaphones or muzzle him permanently on yet another major social media platform.