Facebook has 6 months to decide if Trump can return to its platforms

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OAKLAND, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — Facebook’s independent oversight board Wednesday upheld former President Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension from the social network and Instagram.

However, the board found Facebook failed to impose the proper penalty on Trump saying “The Oversight Board has upheld Facebook’s decision to suspend Mr. Trump’s access to post content on Facebook and Instagram on January 7, 2021. However, as Facebook suspended Mr. Trump’s accounts ‘indefinitely,’ the company must reassess this penalty.”

The board ruled that Facebook must examine the “arbitrary penalty” of the indefinite suspension it imposed and decide the appropriate penalty within six months.

Facebook blocked Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts over concerns the former president’s words could incite violence and unrest after his supporters sieged the Capitol on Jan. 6. Rioters battled with police, smashed windows, and sent lawmakers fleeing. Five people, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, died in the violence.

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 in the first post, and “great patriots” and “remember this day forever” in the second. Those violated Facebook’s rules against praising or supporting people engaged in violence, the board said.

Facebook issued a statement shortly after the ruling Wednesday saying in part: “As we stated in January, we believe our decision was necessary and right, and we’re pleased the board has recognized that the unprecedented circumstances justified the exceptional measure we took.”

Facebook continued to say it would consider the board’s decision to review the punishment.

“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.”

Trump released a statement hours after the announcement saying in part, “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and embarrassment to our Country. 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. ”

Facebook handed the case over to the oversight board soon after instituting the ban on Trump. The company created the board last year in response to criticism over its handling of problematic content.

The Trump decision was originally due April 21 but the board postponed the deadline saying, “we extended the public comments deadline for this case, receiving 9,000+ responses.” Trump remained suspended on Facebook and Instagram while the board reviewed the decision.

The ruling comes as the former president launched a blog Tuesday to connect with followers online.

The blog is a new section containing posts “from the desk of Donald J. Trump” went live on his former campaign website Tuesday, including a video and statements penned by the former president.

“In a time of silence and lies, a beacon of freedom arises,” text in the video says.

Many of the statements contained in the blog were previously shared as separate press releases on the website, but are now collected on one page and are shareable on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook regularly takes down posts and accounts. Reuters reports the social media company purged 1.3 billion fake accounts between October and December 2020. The independent board is prioritizing for review select cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world.

The board issued its first rulings in January, overturning four out of the five decisions by the social network to take down questionable content. In its initial batch of rulings, the board ordered Facebook to restore posts by users that the company said broke standards on adult nudity, hate speech or dangerous individuals.

Twitter banned Trump’s account in January, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly insurrection. Trump was also banned from other social media platforms including Snapchat, Reddit and Youtube.

Trump also opened an “Office of the Former President” in January that handles his duties as former president and to further his administration’s agenda.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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