Facebook announced on Friday that former President Donald Trump’s accounts would be suspended for two years, freezing his social media presence until early 2023, following the discovery that Trump had fueled violence before the deadly insurgency in the United States. January 6 at the Capitol.
At the end of the suspension, the company will assess whether Trump’s “public safety risk” has abated, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, wrote in a statement. blog post. He said Facebook would take into account “external factors” such as instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assemblies and other markers of civil unrest.
Facebook also said it would end a controversial policy that automatically exempted politicians from rules banning hate speech and abuse, and toughen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence.
The former president called Facebook’s decision on the suspension “an insult.” The two-year ban replaced a previous ruling that ordered Trump’s indefinite suspension.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censorship and silence, and ultimately we will win. Our country can no longer endure this abuse! Trump said in a press release.
Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become indispensable tools for politicians to get their messages across and collect small donations. Without the Twitter megaphone and targeted fundraising calls his campaign has mastered on Facebook, Trump could be at a serious disadvantage compared to other politicians.
Trump teased his run for president again in 2024. His aides say he has been working on launching his own social media platform to compete with those who started it, but none have yet emerged. materialized. A blog he started on his existing website earlier this year was shut down after less than a month. It drew dismal traffic.
On Facebook, Trump’s suspension means his account is essentially frozen. Others can read and comment on previous posts, but Trump and other account managers can’t post new content. Twitter, on the other hand, has permanently banned Trump from his service, and there is no record of his account.
“What they have done here is shield themselves from potential presidential rage” with a reassessment of Trump’s account in two years, said Jennifer Grygiel, professor of communications at Syracuse University.
In a color-coded graphic on its blog post, the company said public figures who violate its policies during a crisis can be barred from posting for a month (yellow) or up to two years (red). Future violations, he said, will be punished with “tougher penalties, up to and including final revocation.”
The policy that exempted politicians from hate speech and abuse rules was once championed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The company said it had never applied the policy to Trump, but backtracked on Friday to say it had used it once, in 2019 for a video of a rally on its Facebook page.
The social media giant has said it will still apply the “topical interest” exemption to certain posts it deems to be in the public interest, even if they violate Facebook’s rules. But it will no longer treat material posted by politicians any differently from other posts. In addition, Facebook said it will go public whenever it applies the exemption to a post.
Ads respond to recommendations of the quasi-independent supervisory board of the company. This panel last month upheld Facebook’s decision to keep Trump suspended, but the board said the company couldn’t just suspend him indefinitely. This gave the company six months to decide what to do with its accounts.
In his decision last month, the board agreed with Facebook that two of Trump’s January 6 posts “seriously violated” Facebook and Instagram content standards.
“We love you. You are very special,” Trump told rioters in the first post. In the second, he called them “great patriots” and told them to “remember this day forever.”
The comments violated Facebook’s rules against praising or supporting those involved in the violence, the board said. Specifically, the council cited rules against “dangerous individuals and organizations” which prohibit anyone who proclaims a violent mission and prohibit posts expressing support for such individuals or groups.
The two-year suspension is effective from January 7, so Trump has 19 months left.
A group calling itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board, which criticizes Facebook and its watchdog group, said in a statement Friday that the ban brings Trump back just in time for the 2024 presidential election and shows “no real strategy for address authoritarian leaders and extremist content, and no intention to take serious action against disinformation and hate speech.
Because of its size and power, Facebook’s decision has far-reaching implications for politicians and their constituents around the world. Chinmayi Arun, a member of the Yale Law School Information Society Project, said it was good that the company set a standard for when it will suspend political leaders and for how long.
“What’s great is that Facebook has followed the recommendation of the Supervisory Board to reassess the real-world context and offline tensions, while deciding what to do with a politician’s online speech,” he said. she declared. But she remains concerned that the suspensions cannot be revised unless Facebook requests it.
For years, Facebook has given the former president special treatment and the free rein to spread disinformation and threats on the platform. External reviews and even those of Facebook own employees asked the company to remove Trump long before the Jan.6 comments were made.
Last summer, for example, Zuckerberg decided to leave messages from Trump suggesting protesters in Minneapolis could be shot, using the words “when the looting begins, the shooting begins.” Trump’s comment evoked the civil rights era by borrowing a phrase used in 1967 by the Miami Police Chief to warn of an aggressive police response to unrest in black neighborhoods.
While Facebook has put labels on many of Trump’s election messages, it has not faced sanctions such as suspension for repeatedly and falsely claiming victory in 2020.
In Friday’s post, Clegg anticipated criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
“We know that any sanction that we apply – or choose not to apply – will be controversial. There are a lot of people who think that it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an exiting president from its platform, and many others think that Mr. Trump should have been immediately banned for life ”, he wrote.
Facebook’s job, he said, is “to make a decision in the most proportionate, fair and transparent way possible, in accordance with the instructions given to us by the Supervisory Board.”
But staying in the middle, some experts said Facebook had once again overturned the decision instead of taking a firm stand.
“It’s the wait-and-see approach,” said Sarah Kreps, professor at Cornell and director of the Cornell Tech Policy Lab. “I think they hope it can just be resolved with him no longer being some sort of influential voice in politics.”
Associated Press editors Tali Arbel, Matt O’Brien, and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
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