A panel of outside experts Facebook tapped to review its decision to block President Trump for the content he posted after the insurrection said Wednesday that the initial decision to restrict his access was appropriate. However, the so-called oversight board questioned the move to ban him from the platform indefinitely, as the company had failed to lay out a “a clear, published procedure” for imposing an indefinite suspension.
“It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored,” the board said. Within six months of Wednesday’s decision from the board, Facebook must “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.”
It was two Facebook posts by Trump in particular that prompted the platform to cut off his access. The first was a video he filmed the afternoon of Jan. 6, hours after the Capitol had been ransacked, in which he called the rioters “very special” while reiterating claims that the election was stolen, even as he instructed the mob to “go home.”
After Facebook removed the video, Trump posted a written statement that evening calling the rioters “great patriots” and saying, “Remember this day forever!”
Twitter temporarily barred Trump from its platform for those posts, and then imposed a permanent suspension when, after Trump was allowed to return, he continued to post incendiary content.
In addition to those two posts, the Facebook oversight board on Wednesday said that on five previous occasions — three of them in the last year —Trump had posted content that violated the platform’s community standards.
“While the five violating posts were removed, no account-level sanctions were applied,” the oversight board noted.
The board also criticized Facebook for leaving it to outside experts to resolve what should happen to Trump’s account.
“It is Facebook’s role to create necessary and proportionate penalties that respond to severe violations of its content policies,” it said. “The Board’s role is to ensure that Facebook’s rules and processes are consistent with its content policies, its values and its human rights commitments.”