Facebook will extend its ban of former President Donald Trump past the midterm elections, coming up with a two-year penalty but with the threat of a permanent ban still on the table.
The company's oversight board had already upheld the suspension of Trump accounts on Facebook and co-owned Instagram after he praised the Capitol rioters, but criticized the fact that it was open ended, saying an indefinite and standardless penalty was not appropriate.
Facebook said that given the gravity of the circumstances leading to the penalty--an attempted insurrection tied to Trump's baseless claims of massive election fraud-it believed the offense merited the highest penalty under its new, time-bounded "enforcement protocols," which in this case is for two years effective from the initial Jan. 7 suspension.
In Fact Facebook created its own penalty timeline tied to "public figures during times of civil unrest or ongoing violence."
Trump will not necessarily be reinstated even then if Facebook decides there is an ongoing risk to public safety.
It says there will also be an "escalating" series of sanctions for Trump if the sanction is lifted and he commits future violations, up to and including permanent removal.
"We know that any penalty we apply — or choose not to apply — will be controversial. There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing President from its platform, and many others who believe Mr. Trump should have immediately been banned for life," said Nick Clegg, VP of global affairs. "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 Trump team just this week pulled the plug on his blog, which he had been using to try and compensate for his suspensions from Facebook and Instagram and Twitter following his tweets about protests and massive election fraud.
“Facebook’s decision only illustrates its many failures to protect our communities," said Carmen Scurato, senior policy council at Free Press. "While the company claims to have reined in the abuses of dishonest politicians, it has left open opportunities for them to continue spreading the hate and lies that Facebook’s business model relies upon. Facebook must stop all exemptions for those with outsized power and influence to violate the platform’s Community Standards. As with other platform announcements, Facebook is light on the details of how content moderation will change in practice or when they will institute them."
The prospect of Trump getting back on the site, with good behavior, after two years did not sit well with women's gender justice group UltraViolet.
“Let’s be clear, the white nationalist insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th was a direct result of Facebook's failure to uphold its own community standards," said UltraViolet VP Maria Tchijov," "and the fact that Facebook would allow Donald Trump back on its platform with only a two year suspension proves that Mark Zuckerberg has not yet come to terms with his personal responsibility in Facebook’s role as the tool for spreading racism, violence and misinformation. The fact that Trump’s suspension would end just ahead of the 2024 election only further goes to show that Facebook either has not learned its lesson, or is doing everything in its power to appease the radical authoritarian right."
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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