Facebook on Thursday said it is asking its independent experts to rule on whether former president Donald Trump’s suspension for “fomenting insurrection” should stand.
Facebook and Instagram suspended Trump after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, an attack on the seat of democracy that led to Trump’s second impeachment.
The leading social network is referring the decision to its independent oversight board — known informally as the Facebook “supreme court” — with the authority to make binding rulings even chief executive Mark Zuckerberg must abide by.
“We believe our decision was necessary and right,” Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said in a blog post.
“Our decision to suspend then-president Trump’s access was taken in extraordinary circumstances: a US president actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power; five people killed; legislators fleeing the seat of democracy.”
Unprecedented circumstances called for unprecedented action against Trump, reasoned Clegg, a former deputy British prime minister.
Facebook’s oversight board is tasked with making final decisions on appeals regarding what is removed or allowed to remain on the world’s biggest social network.
Launch of the panel came late last year amid rising concerns about misinformation and manipulation around the US election.
Trump’s access to Facebook will remain suspended while it awaits an oversight board decision, according to Clegg.
“We hope, given the clear justification for our actions on January 7, that it will uphold the choices we made,” Clegg said.
Along with the ruling, Facebook will welcome “recommendations from the board around suspensions when the user is a political leader,” he added.
Reaction to the Trump ban has ranged from criticism that Facebook should have booted him long ago to outrage over his online voice being muted.
“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,” Clegg said.
“But it has never meant that politicians can say whatever they like.”
Members of the oversight board come from various countries and include jurists, human rights activists, journalists, a Nobel peace laureate and a former Danish prime minister.