The announcement comes after the independent Facebook Oversight Board upheld the company’s suspension of the ex-U.S. president last month — after Trump praised rioters who engaged in violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 — but required Facebook to review is decision and policies within six months.
In addition, Facebook will not “treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else” in determining whether its “newsworthiness” outweighs potential harm, VP of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a blog post, a change to how it has applied its rules to politicians.
Facebook is “removing the presumption we announced in 2019 that speech from politicians is inherently of public interest,” the company said in a response to the Oversight Board.
On Jan. 7, Facebook indefinitely froze Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts with CEO Mark Zuckerberg citing the risk of ongoing violence if the then-president were allowed to remain on the services. Twitter banned Trump permanently on Jan. 8 for the same reasons, and other internet companies have taken similar actions to deplatform him.
Facebook’s two-year sanction against Trump for “severe violations” was deemed to be “long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself,” Clegg wrote in a blog post Friday.
According to Clegg, “Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.”
Once the two-year period is up, in January 2023, “we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded” in deciding whether to reinstate Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, Clegg continued. “If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to reevaluate until that risk has receded,” the exec wrote.
If and when Trump’s suspension is eventually lifted, Clegg added, “there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.”
In the wake of Trump’s broad suspension from numerous internet platforms, the ex-president and former TV reality-show host launched a blog about a month ago to share commentary. The blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” has now been shut down; it appears the blog posts have been moved into his personal website’s “news” section.
Americans have been nearly evenly divided on whether Trump should be permanently banned from social media.
About 49% of U.S. adults agreed that Trump’s social-media accounts should be permanently banned, while 50% say they should not be, per a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April. The split is largely along party lines: 88% of Republicans say Trump should not be banned from social media, while 81% of Democrats believe he should be barred for life.
“We know that any penalty we apply — or choose not to apply — will be controversial,” Facebook’s Clegg wrote. “[B]ut our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible, in keeping with the instruction given to us by the Oversight Board.”
Facebook also Friday published new details of its “strike” system, which tabulates violations of Facebook and Instagram guidelines. Earlier this year, the company introduced a feature called “account status” that lets users see when content was removed from their account, why it was removed, and what the penalty was.
Per Clegg, Facebook will continue to allow “certain content that is newsworthy or important to the public interest” to remain on its platforms, even if such posts might otherwise violate policies. The company will document the “rare instances” when that happens, he wrote. The test will measure “whether the public interest value of the content outweighs the potential risk of harm by leaving it up,” according to Clegg, regardless of whether it’s shared by a political leader or any other user. Zuckerberg a year ago outlined a policy under which Facebook started adding warning labels to politicians’ posts that were deemed newsworthy, a change from the company’s hands-off policy to moderating political speech.
Liberal watchdog Media Matters blasted Facebook for its “cowardly and dangerous decision” to potentially restore Trump’s accounts ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, accusing the company of a pattern of “mollifying right-wing critics and enabling extremists.”
“A few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg explicitly acknowledged that Donald Trump used Facebook ‘to incite a violent insurrection,'” Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, sad in a statement. “Today, Facebook announced that it may reinstate Donald Trump’s account after a two-year suspension. That Facebook won’t just ban Trump already is alarming. Either Facebook is refusing to take meaningful action out of fear of right-wing backlash or, worse, it is in cahoots with right-wing extremists.”
Trump also slammed Facebook’s ban on his accounts through January 2023 — for different reasons, of course. He called the company’s decision an “insult” to those who voted for him “in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” continuing to promote the central falsehood that led to the Jan. 6 deadly storming of the Capitol.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!” Trump said in a statement.