The social network also requested recommendations from the board with the aim of crafting a policy on suspensions when the impacted user is a political leader.
Vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg wrote in a Newsroom post Thursday, “Our decision to suspend then-President Trump’s access was taken in extraordinary circumstances: a U.S. president actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power; five people killed; legislators fleeing the seat of democracy. This has never happened before—and we hope it will never happen again. It was an unprecedented set of events that called for unprecedented action.”
Facebook said Jan. 7 that it would indefinitely suspend Trump’s ability to post to Facebook and Instagram, at least through Inauguration Day, and the oversight board wrote in a blog post Thursday, “The oversight board has been closely following events in the U.S. and Facebook’s response to them, and the board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company’s decision.”
Clegg wrote, “The reaction to our decision shows the delicate balance private companies are being asked to strike. Some said that Facebook should have banned President Trump long ago, and that the violence on the Capitol was itself a product of social media; others that it was an unacceptable display of unaccountable corporate power over political speech. We have taken the view that in open democracies, people have a right to hear what their politicians are saying—the good, the bad and the ugly—so that they can be held to account. But it has never meant that politicians can say whatever they like. They remain subject to our policies banning the use of our platform to incite violence. It is these policies that were enforced when we took the decision to suspend President Trump’s access.”
A group calling itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board, which was established last September by outspoken critics of the social network, including representatives from major civil rights groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, lashed out at the company for waiting so long to take action.
The group said in a statement Thursday, “Facebook failed for months to take action over Donald Trump’s repeated use of its platform to incite violence, spread disinformation and systematic attempts to subvert the election. Its abject failure to act undoubtedly played a role in the violent events that unfolded at the Capitol Jan. 6. American democracy survived in spite of Facebook.”
The Real Facebook Oversight Board continued, “Facebook has utterly failed to acknowledge its role in these events. What’s more, its leadership was emboldened to act against Trump only after the Democrats’ victory in the Senate was assured. It took an attempted coup for Facebook to take up this case. We are concerned that Facebook is using its oversight board as a fig leaf to cover its lack of open, transparent, coherent moderation policies, its continued failure to act against inciters of hate and violence and the tsunami of misinformation and disinformation that continues to flood its platform.”
The board said its decision will be binding, and Facebook committed to not restore Trump’s access to his accounts unless directed to do so by that decision.
The company must also consider any policy recommendation the board may make and publicly respond to them.