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The Ruling Is In: Trump Cannot Return to Facebook

The Facebook Oversight Board announces its much-awaited decision
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2021 8:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Facebook Oversight Board has spoken: Former President Trump cannot return to Facebook. In an eagerly awaited decision, the social media platform on Wednesday announced that it would uphold the indefinite suspension instituted on Jan. 7, reports the Guardian. But the board also faulted Facebook for not imposing the "proper penalty" in simply suspending Trump indefinitely. It said Facebook must review the matter within six months and decide the appropriate penalty for Trump, one "based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm" and "consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate."

  • Other key lines from the ruling regarding that point: "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. ... It was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account."

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  • As for the source of the decision, the New York Times reports the London-based board is a panel made up of about 20 people selected and paid by Facebook to weigh in on content-related debates. The journalists, former political leaders, and human rights activists on it have the final say on the content that can appear on the site; Facebook calls the panel independent, while the AP goes with "quasi-independent."
  • The Times notes that the majority of its rulings to date—it has made nine, per the AP—have reversed decisions made by Facebook.
  • "We look forward to receiving the board's decision," Facebook VP for Global Affairs Nick Clegg said previously, "and we hope, given the clear justification for our actions on Jan. 7, that it will uphold the choices we made." In announcing Trump's ban from the site, Facebook had said Trump used the site to incite violence.
  • The AP says the decision was being watched by "politicians, free speech experts and activists around the world" for its wider implications "for tech companies, world leaders and people across the political spectrum—many of whom have wildly conflicting views of the proper role for technology companies when it comes to regulating online speech and protecting people from abuse and misinformation."
(Read more Facebook stories.)

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