Facebook’s independent oversight board ruled Wednesday to uphold the company’s January decision to suspend the Facebook and Instagram accounts of former President Donald Trump, CNBC reported.
But, the board said, the indefinite time frame of the suspension “was not appropriate.” The board effectively punted the decision on the length of the suspension back to Facebook, saying it “insists” the company “review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”
The board asked that Facebook complete the review within six months and made suggestions for how to create clear policies that balance public safety and freedom of expression.
“We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate,” Facebook said in a blog post following the announcement. “In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended.”
Trump responded to the decision in statement and claimed his free speech rights had been violated by Facebook and other tech companies that banned him from their respective online platforms. His statement also falsely implied that he won the election.
“What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country,” Trump’s statement said. “Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”
Facebook suspended Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The suspension was Facebook’s most aggressive action against Trump during his four-year term.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page at the time.
Facebook referred the decision to its oversight board a few weeks later, saying that given the significance of the decision, “we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld.”
The decision to uphold Trump’s suspension is the most significant action taken thus far by the oversight board, which was launched in October as a de facto “supreme court” for the company’s content moderation decisions.
The board is an independent body made up of civic, technological, free speech, journalism and human rights experts from around the world. A randomly selected but diverse group of five board members were chosen to deliberate on the case, and the recommendation had to be voted favorably by a majority of the full 20-member oversight board.