SAN FRANCISCO (The Hill) — Facebook announced Friday that it is suspending former President Trump until Jan. 7, 2023, a full two years after he was first barred from the platform.
After that date, Facebook will evaluate whether the “risk to public safety” of restoring Trump’s account has abated.
If the suspension is then lifted, Trump will be subject to a “strict” set of sanctions for future policy violations, Facebook said.
“We know that any penalty we apply — or choose not to apply — will be controversial,” Facebook’s Nick Clegg said in a blog post. “We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide — but 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.”
The suspension is being made under new enforcement protocols announced Friday in response to the company’s independent Oversight Board ruling that the initial indefinite suspension was not appropriate.
Trump in a statement called the decision “an insult” to Americans who voted for him while repeating his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win,” the former president said. “Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”
The 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.
Facebook also announced Friday that it will be providing more clarity about its newsworthiness policy, which allows posts that would otherwise violate platform policy to stay on the site “if it’s newsworthy and if keeping it visible is in the public interest.” The platform claims that, moving forward, it will no longer apply the newsworthiness standard differently to politicians.
The platform is also publicly publishing its strike system that it uses to determine the severity of punishment that can be doled out to successive infringements of Facebook policies.
Trump was initially suspended for posts made about the 2020 election and deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Other platforms, including Twitter, went further than Facebook and instituted a permanent ban on the former president.
The Oversight Board — a collection of academics, former journalists and politicians — said that while the decision to suspend Trump was justified given the situation, the lack of clarity around the length of the suspension and what policy explained the duration was problematic.
Facebook said that it will fully implement 15 of the board’s 19 recommendations.
Notably, it is only partially accepting a suggestion to review its own role in facilitating the spread of the narrative that the 2020 was stolen.
“Ultimately… we believe that independent researchers and our democratically elected officials are best positioned to complete an objective review of these events,” the company wrote in its responses to the recommendations.
Facebook also made clear it believes the responsibility for the events of Jan. 6 “lies with the insurrectionists and those who encouraged them.”
The platform was rife with posts about both the election and plans for Jan. 6 in the weeks leading up to the deadly riot, and critics have said Facebook did not do enough to proactively address them.
Facebook critics slammed the platform’s announcement that leaves open the possibility of Trump coming back onto the platform ahead of the 2024 election.
“Facebook’s decision to reinstate Donald Trump’s accounts just in time for the 2024 presidential election puts the public and our democracy in danger,” Muslim Advocates’s senior policy counsel, Madihha Ahussain, said in a statement.
James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, said Facebook’s failure to permanently ban Trump underscored the need for a “comprehensive tech agenda.”
“A two-year ban gets us past the 2022 election cycle, but does not protect Americans from his interference in the next presidential election, which is why Facebook should, and can, permanently ban Trump,” Steyer said in a statement.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group of tech advocates critical of Facebook and its oversight body, slammed Facebook’s Friday announcement as “accountability theater.”
“This is more evidence that we need actual independent oversight where the terms are enforceably set for Facebook, not just optional recommendations from a body they created and fund,” the group said in a statement.
The Oversight Board that advises the company is funded through a $130 million trust from Facebook to cover the operational costs, but has its own staff independent from the social media giant.
The Hill’s Chris Mills Rodrigo and Rebecca Klar contributed to the contents of this report.