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Facebook Board Upholds Trump Ban. What Legal Precedent Does It Set For Big Tech?




In this photo illustration, a smart phone screen displays the logo of Facebook on a Facebook website background, on April 7, 2021, in Arlington, Virginia.
In this photo illustration, a smart phone screen displays the logo of Facebook on a Facebook website background, on April 7, 2021, in Arlington, Virginia.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

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Former President Donald Trump won’t return to Facebook — at least not yet.

The social network’s quasi-independent Oversight Board voted to uphold his ban from the platform after his account was suspended four months ago for inciting violence that led to the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot. But in a statement, it faulted Facebook for the way it made the decision and called its “indefinite” suspension of Trump unreasonable and unworkable.

The board said Facebook sought to avoid its responsibilities by applying “a vague, standardless penalty” and then referring the case to the board to resolve.

“Indefinite penalties of this sort do not pass the international smell test,” oversight board co-chair Michael McConnell said in a conference call with reporters. “We are not cops, reigning over the realm of social media.”

The board agreed with Facebook that that two of Trump’s Jan. 6 posts “severely violated” the content standards of both Facebook and Instagram.

“We love you. You’re very special,” he said to the rioters in the first post. In the second, he called them “great patriots” and told them to “remember this day forever.” Those violated Facebook’s rules against praising or supporting people engaged in violence, the board said.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish prime minister who sits on the board, said in the call that Facebook shirked its responsibility to enforce its own rules. “Facebook should either permanently disable Trump’s account or impose a suspension for a specific period of time,” she said.

With files from the Associated Press

Guests:

Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty & National Security Program; she tweets @FaizaPatelBCJ

Eugene Volokh, first amendment law professor at UCLA; he tweets @VolokhC