Facebook has announced that it is suspending former President Donald Trump until January 7, 2023, a full two years after he was first barred from the platform.
Facebook disclosed this one Friday, noting that it will evaluate whether the “risk to public safety” of restoring Trump’s account has abated after the date.
If the suspension is then lifted, Trump will be subject to a “strict” set of sanctions for future policy violations, Facebook said.
“We know that any penalty we apply – or choose not to apply – will be controversial.
“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,”Facebook’s Nick Clegg said in a blog post.
The suspension is being made under new enforcement protocols announced on Friday, in response to the company’s independent Oversight Board ruling that the initial indefinite suspension was not appropriate.
Trump in a statement called the decision “an insult” to Americans who voted for him while repeating his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”the former president said.
The Oversight Board tweeted that it is reviewing Facebook’s response to its decision and will offer “further comment once this review is complete.”
Facebook also announced that it will be providing more clarity about its newsworthiness policy, which allows posts that would otherwise violate platform policy to stay on the site “if it’s newsworthy and if keeping it visible is in the public interest.”
The platform claims that, moving forward, it will no longer apply the newsworthiness standard differently to politicians.
The platform is also publicly publishing its strike system that it uses to determine the severity of punishment that can be doled out to successive infringements of Facebook policies.
Trump was initially suspended for posts made about the 2020 election and deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Other platforms, including Twitter, went further than Facebook and instituted a permanent ban on the former president.
The Oversight Board – a collection of academics, former journalists and politicians – said that while the decision to suspend Trump was justified given the situation, the lack of clarity around the length of the suspension and what policy explained the duration was problematic.
Facebook said that it will fully implement 15 of the board’s 19 recommendations.
Notably, it is only partially accepting a suggestion to review its own role in facilitating the spread of the narrative that the 2020 was stolen.
“Ultimately… we believe that independent researchers and our democratically elected officials are best positioned to complete an objective review of these events,” the company wrote in its responses to the recommendations.
Facebook also made it clear that it believes the responsibility for the events of January 6 “lies with the insurrectionists and those who encouraged them.”
The platform was rife with posts about both the election and plans for January 6 in the weeks leading up to the deadly riot, and critics have said Facebook did not do enough to proactively address them.
Facebook’s critics slammed the platform’s announcement that leaves open the possibility of Trump coming back onto the platform ahead of the 2024 election.
“Facebook’s decision to reinstate Donald Trump’s accounts just in time for the 2024 presidential election puts the public and our democracy in danger,” Muslim Advocates’ senior policy counsel, Madihha Ahussain, said in a statement.
James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, said Facebook’s failure to permanently ban Trump underscored the need for a “comprehensive tech agenda.”
“A two-year ban gets us past the 2022 election cycle, but does not protect Americans from his interference in the next presidential election, which is why Facebook should, and can, permanently ban Trump,” Steyer said in a statement.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group of tech advocates critical of Facebook and its oversight body, slammed Facebook’s announcement as “accountability theater.”
“This is more evidence that we need actual independent oversight where the terms are enforceably set for Facebook, not just optional recommendations from a body they created and fund,” the group said in a statement.
The Oversight Board that advises the company is funded through a $130 million trust from Facebook to cover the operational costs, but has its own staff independent from the social media giant.