Facebook’s Oversight Board on Wednesday decided to continue the permanent ban on Facebook and Instagram accounts of Donald Trump. The Oversight Board, which was appointed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has often been described as “Facebook’s Supreme Court” and its role is to rule on difficult or controversial moderation decisions made by Facebook. Facebook claims that the Oversight Board is an independent entity, despite all of its wages and running costs being covered by Facebook.
However, even though the Oversight Board has upheld the ban on Donald Trump, it criticized the permanent nature of the ban. The board said that a permanent ban is not consistent with Facebook’s normal penalties. It also ordered Facebook to review its decision and “justify a proportionate response” that is applicable to every Facebook user including ordinary users.
The Oversight Board said that the initial decision to permanently ban Trump was “indeterminate and standardless”, and that the correct response should be “consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform”. Facebook has been given the deadline of six months to respond, in what is seemingly another delaying tactic ensuring the permanent ban of Donald Trump will last for six more months.
The Oversight Board has taken issue with the “indefinite” nature of Trump’s Facebook ban, whilst ruling that Trump did violate Facebook’s community standards in the wake of the January 6th Capitol riot. Facebook, a multi-billion dollar Big Tech social media monopoly is now ruling on as to whether the sitting President of the United States at the time violated their community standards. This dynamic clearly demonstrates the rising power of Big Tech companies which can even rival and surpass governments.
“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 Oversight Board said in a statement.
The Board argued that Facebook had essentially issued “a vague, standardless penalty and then [referred] this case to the Board to resolve”. It said doing so meant “Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities” and sent the decision back to Facebook.
Donald Trump, the then sitting President of the United States was unceremoniously banned by Facebook and Twitter in the aftermath of the January 6th Capitol Riot. It is of note that the only death of the January 6th riot which was ruled a homicide was the murder of Trump supporter U.S. Army veteran Ashli Babbit. All other deaths related to the January 6th riot have been attributed to illness and other factors.