Facebook set its ban on former US president Donald Trump for two years, saying he deserved the maximum punishment for violating platform rules over a deadly attack by his supporters on the US Capitol.
Facebook, along with other major media platforms Twitter and YouTube, had suspended Trump’s accounts after the Capitol Hill riots, alleging that the Republican leader’s rhetoric had instigated the attack.
On January 6, thousands of supporters of outgoing President Trump had stormed the Capitol building and clashed with police, resulting in four deaths, and interrupted a constitutional process by the Congress to affirm the victory of Joe Biden in the November 3 election.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year, Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs, Facebook said in a blog post on Friday.
Last month, the Oversight Board — a quasi-judicial body that makes consequential content moderation decisions on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram — upheld the Silicon Valley-based company’s suspension of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, following his praise for the people engaged in the violence at the Capitol.
But in doing so, the board criticised the open-ended nature of the suspension, stating that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”
“The board instructed us to review the decision and respond in a way that is clear and proportionate, and made a number of recommendations on how to improve our policies and processes,” he wrote.
“We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr Trump’s accounts,” Clegg wrote.
At the end of this two-year period, Facebook said it will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.
It will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest.
“If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded,” he wrote.
“When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts,” Clegg wrote.
(We) will offer further comment once this review is complete, the board said.
Clegg said that in establishing the two-year sanction for severe violations, it considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself.
“We know that any penalty we apply or choose not to apply will be controversial. There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing President from its platform, and many others who believe Mr Trump should have immediately been banned for life,” Clegg wrote.
“We know today’s decision will be criticised 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,” he wrote.