Donald Trump remains banned from Facebook after suspension upheld

5 May 2021, 14:08 | Updated: 5 May 2021, 15:12

Donald Trump was first suspended from Facebook in January after the Capitol riots
Donald Trump was first suspended from Facebook in January after the Capitol riots. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Donald Trump remains banned from Facebook after the firm's oversight board chose to uphold his suspension from the platform.

The social media giant's independent oversight board confirmed on Wednesday its decision to keep the ex-president off Facebook and Instagram.

Mr Trump's accounts were suspended after he was accused of inciting violence that led to the deadly Capitol riots in Washington DC at the start of the year.

The former US leader repeatedly came under fire for using his posts to peddle misinformation prior to, during and after the US election.

He remains permanently banned from Twitter.

Facebook's panel said Mr Trump's posts during the Capitol riot in January "severely violated Facebook’s rules and encouraged and legitimized violence".

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However, it also said the firm violated its own rules by imposing a suspension that was "indefinite".

The oversight board acknowledged it was "not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension".

"Facebook's normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension or permanently disabling the page and account," the group said.

"The board insists 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.

"Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision."

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The tech giant has until November to determine the length of the penalty.

Facebook's Oversight Board wrote on Twitter: "Facebook cannot make up the rules as it goes, and anyone concerned about its power should be concerned about allowing this.

"Having clear rules that apply to all users and Facebook is essential for ensuring the company treats users fairly."

It also urged the social media giant to either delete the accounts of heads of state or high government officials who "repeatedly posts messages that pose a risk of harm under international human rights norms" or suspend them for a set amount of time.

"The ‘newsworthiness’ of a public figure’s remarks should never take priority over urgent action to prevent harm. Facebook must be far more transparent about how its newsworthiness policy works," the panel said.

It also encouraged Facebook to conduct a review of its contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and political tensions that led to the events of 6 January.

Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, said the firm is "pleased" the board recognised the "unprecedented circumstances".

"While the board has not required Facebook to immediately restore Mr Trump's accounts, it has not specified the appropriate duration of the penalty," he said.

"We 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."

People can submit an appeal to the panel if they think content was wrongly removed.

The board takes on a handful of cases every few months and assesses Facebook's initial verdict.

Their conclusions are binding and even overrule chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, meaning Facebook has seven days to reverse any removals - unless doing so could break the law.

The board is made up of a number of experts from various fields ranging from government and journalism, to digital rights and law.