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Facebook has six months to determine if Trump returns

Stock MarketsMay 05, 2021 09:21PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo 2/2

By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)'s oversight board on Wednesday upheld the company's suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump but said the company was wrong to make the suspension indefinite and gave it six months to determine a "proportionate response."

Trump called the decision and his banning across tech platforms "a total disgrace" and said the companies would "pay a political price."

The much-awaited board verdict has been watched for signals on how the world's largest social media company will treat rule-breaking political leaders in the future, a key area of controversy for online platforms.

The board, created by Facebook to rule on a small slice of its content decisions, said the company was right to ban Trump following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

Facebook indefinitely blocked Trump's access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts over concerns of further violent unrest following the Jan. 6 riot. It enacted the suspension after removing two of Trump's posts during the Capitol riot, including a video in which he said supporters should go home but reiterated his false claim of widespread voter fraud, saying "I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us."

But the board said Facebook should not have imposed an indeterminate suspension without clear standards and said the company should determine a response consistent with rules applied to other users. It said Facebook could determine that Trump's account could be restored, suspended temporarily or permanently banned.

"Indefinite penalties of this sort do not pass the international or American smell test for clarity, consistency, and transparency," said former federal Judge Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, during a press conference after publishing its decision on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, board co-chair and former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said public figures should not be allowed to incite violence or create harm though their posts, but that Facebook "can't just invent new sanctions as they go along."

In its decision, the board said Facebook refused to answer some of the 46 questions it posed, including those on how its news feed affected the visibility of Trump's posts, and whether the company planned to look into how its technology amplified content as it had done in the events leading to the Capitol siege.

The board said Facebook's existing policies, such as deciding when material is too newsworthy to remove, need to be more clearly communicated to users. It also called on Facebook to develop a policy that governs how it handles novel situations where its existing rules would be insufficient to prevent imminent harm. See takeaways from the board's decision.

Facebook's business has thrived during the controversy and its main source of revenue, advertising, has boomed as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions begin to ease in the United States, but lawmakers across the political spectrum have raised concerns about the power of Facebook and other social media, many calling for new regulations and some calling for breakups of big tech.

Trump called the move "an embarrassment to our Country," and added that "Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before."

At a Financial Times conference after the verdict, Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communication, said the company would hope to resolve the matter "considerably faster" than six months.

Tech platforms have grappled in recent years with how to police world leaders and politicians that violate their guidelines. Facebook has come under fire both from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech and those, including Republican lawmakers and some free-expression advocates who saw the Trump ban as a disturbing act of censorship.

Facebook was one of a slew of social media sites that barred the former president, including Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), which banned him permanently, a move welcomed by some civil rights groups and social media researchers. Political leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders expressed concern that private companies could silence elected officials on their sites.

At the time of the suspension, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said "the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great." The company later referred the case to its recently established board, which includes academics, lawyers and rights activists.

The binding verdict means Trump will not for now be able to return to Facebook's platforms, where he had a combined 59 million followers across Facebook and Instagram. His campaign spent about $160 million on Facebook ads in 2020, according to Democratic digital firm Bully Pulpit Interactive's campaign tracker.

On Tuesday, Trump launched a web page to share messages that readers can then re-post to their Facebook or Twitter accounts. A senior adviser has said Trump also plans to launch his own social media platform.

Wednesday's decision marks a milestone for the oversight board, which Facebook financed with $130 million. The body has been hailed as a novel experiment by some researchers but criticized by those who have been skeptical about its independence or view it as a PR stunt to deflect attention from the company's more systemic problems.

"This verdict is a desperate attempt to have it both ways, upholding the 'ban' of Donald Trump without actually banning him, while punting any real decisions back to Facebook," said a group of academics, experts and Facebook critics known as the "Real Facebook Oversight Board."

Facebook has six months to determine if Trump returns
 

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Comments (35)
John Duncan
John Duncan May 20, 2021 2:48PM ET
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I hate "news" articles which makes opinion statements.  The sentence "It enacted the suspension after removing two of Trump's posts during the Capitol riot, including a video in which he said supporters should go home but reiterated his false claim of widespread voter fraud, saying "I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us." is an opinion.  No one knows if the statement is a false claim because it has not been investigated. The opinion of it being a "riot" is hard to justify also. The NY Times stated on 1/7/21 that the damage was mostly broken glass. Thousands of Facebook users (including me) either dropped their account or quit using their account because of this censorship.
Investing Man
Investing Man May 13, 2021 7:26AM ET
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No one cares about cheetojesis
Mark Westbrook
Mark Westbrook May 06, 2021 3:25AM ET
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Extra 2024 Insurance. DNC marching orders.
Mad Money
Mad Money May 06, 2021 1:57AM ET
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Haha hes crying in his basement probably
Jo Pa
Jo Pa May 06, 2021 12:00AM ET
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FB is shooting themselves in the foot by giving the middle finger to half it's customers. Alternatives are popping up.
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire May 05, 2021 10:42PM ET
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Dont need that bag of hot air back at all.
gzeow lee
gzeow lee May 05, 2021 10:20PM ET
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Welcome Trump comeback but with less word or speech that can incite violence or pressure to other, maybe a post that talked about life living much better. I think Facebook should hava a talk with Trump former president in this issue.
benjamin levi
benjamin levi May 05, 2021 9:57PM ET
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Just when Trump announces the creation of his own platform, facebook for fear of losing traffic from the political discussion decides to allow him to come back !! Trump continues to move forward with the creation of his own platform.
Alex G
Alex G May 05, 2021 9:52PM ET
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The leaders of *******organizations uses facebook but they decided to ban former us president... It's really not funny, it's makes me very sad and I'm not a Trumps fan
Alex G
Alex G May 05, 2021 9:51PM ET
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The leaders of *****organizations uses facebook but they decided to ban former us president... It's really not funny, it's makes me very sad and I'm not a Trumps fan
Mike Station
Mike Station May 05, 2021 9:41PM ET
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I wish Trump didn't return
milena villa escobar
milena villa escobar May 05, 2021 9:41PM ET
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Jajaja.  Reuters still trying to milk the Trump name. Good luck with that
Picaso Fish
Picaso_Fish May 05, 2021 9:38PM ET
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What's Trump going to do, start his own version of Facebook?
Picaso Fish
Picaso_Fish May 05, 2021 9:37PM ET
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pay an political price? Facebook and twitter are not running for election. You've lost all of your freedom if Trump can control or punish these firms.
Don Getty
Don Getty May 05, 2021 9:36PM ET
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i'd invited the queen back but first he has to do a live interview while being polygraphed - social media users get to ask their top twenty ? and he has to answer them - let the truth triumph
Atleast Max
Atleast May 05, 2021 7:51PM ET
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abandon facebook and twitter two garbage piles worth nothing. both are depressing and no longer attract any social communication rather noise and meaningless ness
Billy Sims
Billy Sims May 05, 2021 7:43PM ET
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I hope they do not. I think the only way to break up Big Brother is to help people go to other platforms that are not acting as political tyrants and coordinating with the DNC. Facebook and Twitter are doing more for competing platforms by keeping Trump banned than if they let him back on. The echo chamber sheep can keep circle jer.king all they want as they drive anybody with a functioning brain elsewhere.
Billy Sims
Billy Sims May 05, 2021 7:40PM ET
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Who cares, Trump supporters have left platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Same reason the ratings of the Oscars and sports have dropped 50-60% over the past year, like the amount of viewers of CNN.
Jared Helm
Jared Helm May 05, 2021 6:11PM ET
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Facebook violating freedom of speech. they can burn for all I care
wasloslolkiyekA wasloslolkiyekA
wasloslolkiyekA wasloslolkiyekA May 05, 2021 3:28PM ET
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There is no dignity in returning to fb after one has been banned. I would think less of him if he went back to fb or twtr. He should have left them years ago. Create or join something else; power must be spread.
Alan Rice
Alan Rice May 05, 2021 1:21PM ET
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Facebook: Free Speech/Banned when they disagree.
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy May 05, 2021 1:02PM ET
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It is a good gift to competitor.  I, myself looking for new place, facebook bans me all the time.  And everyone using it complains about the same thing.  It became unusable platform.
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood May 05, 2021 1:02PM ET
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I really like using MeWe. Everything I want, and nothing I don't.
Strazdas Giesmininkas
Strazdas Giesmininkas May 05, 2021 12:21PM ET
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""Facebook is not the public square," Hoyer said in a Washington Post live interview." But the courts in the past has determined that yes, it is a public square with all the rigthts that would apply to that. They classified it as privately owned public space.
Fred Diebold
Fred Diebold May 05, 2021 11:19AM ET
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Facebook - might as well be called "Two Faced Book"
danny Levine
danny Levine May 05, 2021 11:19AM ET
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fascist book!
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood May 05, 2021 11:19AM ET
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danny Levine  Fecesbook
Harding Tom
Harding Tom May 05, 2021 10:59AM ET
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So if Facebook  "... may chart how social media will treat rule-breaking world leaders..." then who really is the leader?   Who sets the rules?  Facebook perhaps?  And if Facebook is the leader and rule setter then do the People really have any power?  Might I suggest perhaps not.  Larga vida Corporate America!  Larga vida the 1/10 percenters!  Viva!, Long live!, Hurrah!, Hurray!
Adrian White
Adrian White May 05, 2021 10:59AM ET
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Harding, I think you're confused. Facebook is a company, not an elected government leader. Of course they are entitled to set their own rules, and if you want to use their product then you have to follow their Terms of Service which you're supposed to read when you sign up. It has nothing to do with "the People having power". If you don't like their rules then you don't have to use their product. Very simple.
ben sc
ben sc May 05, 2021 10:59AM ET
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are they allowed to discriminate?
Harding Tom
Harding Tom May 05, 2021 10:59AM ET
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Adrian White , it doesn't have anything to do with company vs government vs terms of agreement.  It has to do with power to influence and the responsibility to society when using that power.  Its you, Adrian, who is perhaps a little confused on the subject.
Chris Cummins
Chris Cummins May 05, 2021 10:59AM ET
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ben sc  I think it is called enforcing their Terms of Service. The fact that 70% of Republican's are spreading lies is their problem not FB's.
Mike Nawrocki
Mike Nawrocki May 05, 2021 10:59AM ET
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Chris Cummins it's only a lie when you don't agree with it, right? Funny they never ban democrats..... cause they follow the rules? b.s.
 
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