Facebook (FB) on Friday announced that it has reached a decision to suspend former President Trump’s accounts on its platforms for two years. The move comes roughly a month since Facebook’s independent oversight board upheld the social media company’s decision to indefinitely suspend Trump from the platform, but criticized the tech giant for using an arbitrary timeline in its punishment.
Facebook also rolled out a series of new protocols in dealing with public figures during times of civil unrest and ongoing violence.
“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,” Nick Clegg, Facebook vice president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post. “We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.”
Facebook moved to indefinitely suspend Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 7 attack on the U.S. Capitol during which a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building.
Later, as his supporters were attacking police and vandalizing lawmakers’ offices, Trump posted a video to his Facebook page telling the rioters to go home, while simultaneously continuing to spread lies about the 2020 election. He also told supporters “we love you, you’re very special.” After posting the video, Trump again posted to his account, telling his followers to “remember this day forever.”
Following the two-year suspension, Clegg says Facebook will look to experts to determine if the risk to public safety has decreased, and will look at factors ranging from instances of violence, restrictions on the right to peacefully assemble and other “markers of civil unrest.” If those threats still exist, Facebook will extend Trump’s suspension for a set period of time.
Once the suspension is lifted, Trump’s account will face tighter restrictions that kick in if he violates Facebook’s rules, which could include a permanent ban from the platform.
Facebook also announced that it will no longer treat posts by political figures differently than those of ordinary users. The company added one caveat that it will apply a newsworthiness test to those posts, however, meaning some posts will still stay up unless they could lead to real-world harm. The same will apply to average users. Facebook says it will publish a post when makes allowances for newsworthy posts.
The social media company has faced enormous backlash for its decision to suspend Trump from some Republican lawmakers who say the firm is censoring conservative voices. Other Democratic lawmakers claim the company allows too much misinformation and disinformation to spread across its services without facing any consequences.
As a result, both sides of the aisle have called for changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which serves as a kind of liability shield for web companies that host third-party content. That, however, would not preclude companies from hosting or deleting content, which is a First Amendment issue.
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