Facebook has officially announced that they have decided to extend its suspension of former President Donald Trump’s account for at least two years due to the remarks he made “prais[ing] people [who] engaged” in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
“Last month, the Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6,” Facebook said in the statement release announcing its ruling Friday. “We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.”
Facebook stated it would reinstate Trump on Jan. 7, 2023, ahead of the 2024 presidential election but not in time for the 2022 midterms. However, Facebook warned that once Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, if reinstated after the imposed suspension date, would be subject to “strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” if he violates the company’s rules again.
“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 re-evaluate until that risk has receded,” Facebook’s statement reads.
The move was in response to Facebook’s independent Oversight Board ruling last month, which upheld the suspension imposed by the company. However, the board slammed Facebook open-ended indefinite suspension as “not appropriate to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty” and threw the final decision to be made back to the company within 6 months.
“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 in the May 5 ruling. “In applying this penalty, Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure. ‘Indefinite’ suspensions are not described in the company’s content policies.”
Following the social media company’s decision, the Facebook Oversight Board said it is “encouraged” by Facebook’s adoption of some of its policy recommendations.
“The Board believes the steps Facebook has committed to today will contribute to greater clarity, consistency, and transparency in the way the company moderates content, and promote public safety, defend human rights, and respect freedom of expression. The Board monitors Facebook’s implementation of all its decisions and recommendations and intends to hold the company to account on its commitments,” the board said in a statement.
In announcing the 2-year suspension, Facebook acknowledged that its decision would be considered “not appropriate” for a private company to suspend a former president, noting the move would be roundly criticized by conservatives and liberals alike.
“We know that any penalty we apply — or choose not to apply — will be controversial. There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing President from its platform, and many others who believe Mr. Trump should have immediately been banned for life,” Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said. “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 announced “new enforcement protocols” the company would impose in “exceptional cases” similar to Trump’s case. The company noted “in response to a recommendation” from its board, Facebook will implement 15 out of the 19 recommendations providing clearer guidelines in how the company will now punish political world leaders if they break content rules, stating that politicians will no longer be immune from penalties.
“We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts. 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,” Facebook said.
The former president was kicked off the majority of big tech media platforms following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot with Facebook imposing just an “indefinite suspension” and would let its oversight board decide whether to fully ban or reinstate the former president’s accounts. The Independent Oversight Board from Facebook was created last summer and is reported to be the only social media company to have any sort of form of an internet governance body, that cost the company over $130 million to fund the board.
Trump in response to Facebook’s decision called the ruling “an insult” to all the 75 million-plus Americans who voted for him.
“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said in an email statement released by his Save America PAC.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win,” Trump added. “Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”
In a follow-up email statement, Trump vowed if re-elected not to host Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, saying he would strictly keep the relationship “all business.”
“Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!” Trump said.