Facebook’s independent oversight committee on Wednesday upheld the social media platform’s January 7 decision to restrict former United States President Donald Trump’s accounts. However, the board called for a review of the matter within six months.
“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” a statement from the board said. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.”
The board said that it was not permissible for the social networking platform to keep a user away from it for an “undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored”. It also noted that indefinite suspensions were not described in the company’s policies.
“In applying this penalty, Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure,” the board said. “‘Indefinite’ suspensions are not described in the company’s content policies. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
The oversight board also said Facebook should review its “arbitrary penalty” and instead impose an appropriate one. “This penalty must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm,” the committee said. “It must also be consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate.”
On the oversight committee’s decision, Facebook said it will consider it and figure out a “clear and proportionate” action. “In the meantime, Mr Trump’s accounts remain suspended,” said Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs and Communication Nick Clegg in a blog post.
Trump’s Twitter account was permanently suspended on January 8, in the wake of violence in the US Capitol building by his supporters. The micro-blogging platform cited “risk of further incitement of violence” as reason behind the move. His account was initially blocked for 12 hours, but Twitter took permanent action following two of Trump’s tweets against the platform.
Facebook and its sister company Instagram have also banned Trump’s accounts for an indefinite period.
After the social media ban, Twitter had in March said it would seek public input on when and how it should ban world leaders, saying it was reviewing policy and considering whether the leaders should be held to the same rules as other users. Facebook, meanwhile, had asked its independent oversight board to decide whether the ban should stand.
On March 21, Trump’s senior advisor Jason Miller said that the former American president would make a comeback on social media in two to three months with his “own platform”.
At a rally on January 6, Trump had urged his supporters to march to the Capitol. A mob had later entered the Capitol building as members of the Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential elections, which Joe Biden won. At least four people died in the violence.