Oversight Board Upholds Trump’s Ban From Facebook

The Oversight Board has sent the decision back to Facebook management, criticizing it for setting a “standardless” penalty.

Oversight Board Upholds Trump’s Ban From Facebook
Photo of Discord CEO Jason Citron at the Wednesday hearing

May 5, 2021—The Oversight Board, which was set up to review decisions by Facebook management, has upheld the social media company’s indefinite ban on Donald Trump, and made the case only the third example of the board upholding a company decision.

The Board found Wednesday that Trump’s rhetoric “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible,” and noted that as President, he had an elevated level of influence that the average Facebook user would not have. Based on the size of his reach and the blatant dangerousness of his posts, the Oversight Board said it found that the ban was justified.

Even though Facebook upheld the decision, it did not condone what the board called “indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” The Board considered the uncertainty of this ban to be in violation of Facebook’s terms of service, and that banned users should be provided a clear, published procedure that precisely addresses their violation.

In a post to their website’s blog, the Oversight Board condemned Facebook’s actions as shirking responsibility, “In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities. The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.”

The Board insisted that Facebook revaluate the case within six months of Wednesday’s decision.

Out of the nine cases the Oversight Board has so far considered, it has overturned six and upheld two (the Board did not arrive at a verdict for one case). Trump’s case became the third decision upheld by the Oversight Board.

Oversight Board recommendations

The Board also offered a series of policy recommendations and observations. They encouraged Facebook to not draw distinctions between politicians and other influential users. The Board stated that users with a significant following are capable of serious harm, regardless of whether they are a politician. The Board advised Facebook to strike hard and fast to enforce rules for influential users.

The Board pushed back against Facebook’s explanation for its failure to enforce its rules against Trump sooner. Facebook had argued that even though Trump may have been in violation by Facebook’s TOS, Facebook considered his content newsworthy. The Board stated the newsworthiness should not take precedent over the TOS, and that a failure to recognize this led to confusion and uncertainty.

The Board, in a blog post, also proposed nine other recommendations.


Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, took to Twitter to criticize Facebook, tweeting: “Donald Trump has played a big role in helping Facebook spread disinformation, but whether he’s on the platform or not, Facebook and other social media platforms with the same business model will find ways to highlight divisive content to drive advertising revenues.”

Pallone followed up by accusing Facebook of “amplifying and promoting disinformation and misinformation,” and stated that the Oversight Board is ignoring this. He concluded by saying that Facebook will only ever be held accountable with legislation.

Trump’s exodus from social media back in January of 2021 sent ripples throughout the tech world. Facebook was not the only company to deplatform the then-sitting president. Facebook’s Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Twitch, YouTube, Snapchat, and a slew of others banned either Trump himself or communities that his followers used to communicate.

Questions surrounding the “tyranny of Big Tech,” antitrust policy, and free speech were at the forefront of political discussion, particularly for Republicans.

On Tuesday, Trump’s new social-media-esque platform went live. Hosted on donaldjtrump.com and called, “From the Desk of Donald Trump,” it resembles a Twitter feed that users can interact with by sharing to Facebook or Twitter. Users may also “like” posts directly on the site.

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