Facebook’s Trump ban to continue for two years

Social media giant Facebook, today, announced new enforcement protocols that will be applied to “exceptional cases” like former US President Donald Trump. The company’s announcement comes in response to a directive by its Oversight Board, which criticized Facebook for what it thought was an “inappropriate” ban on Trump. The Board asked the social media company to review its decision and respond with a decision that was clear and proportionate to Trump’s actions on the platform. The company also announced that Trump will be banned from the platform for at least two years, and will “only be reinstated if conditions permit”.

“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,” the company said in a blog post. The company will review the ban at the end of this period and will assess whether to reinstate the accounts after consulting with experts. “We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest,” the post added.

Further, Facebook said it will also impose a “strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” that will be triggered if the former US President breaks its rules in future, “up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts”. The move also establishes the two-year ban as a measure Facebook will take for severe violations of its policies in future. The company said it considered the period to be “significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future”.

The social media giant also conceded that it did not have enforcement protocols to adequately respond to the kind of violations that Trump is accused of. “Now that we have them, we hope and expect they will only be applicable in the rarest circumstances,” the company said. The company will now have one month, six months, one year and two years suspensions for public figures who violate its rules.

The move is a notable change from Facebook’s earlier stance on moderating posts from public figures. The platform’s chief executive officer (CEO), Mark Zuckerberg, has said in the past that it shouldn’t be policing speech from politicians. A report from TheVerge yesterday said the company also plans to end its policies that shield politicians from content moderation rules which apply to its other users.

“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,” the company said in its post today.

The Oversight Board for Facebook was formed last year, as a last court of appeal for controversial moderation decisions. The Board considered the ruling against Trump last month and supported Facebook’s decision, though it criticized the company for enforcing a ruling that wasn’t in its policies.

The Board said that the social network should have used its “established account-level penalties” for severe violations instead of an indefinite suspension, which is not included in its content policies. The board called this arbitrary and rejected Facebook’s “request for it to endorse indefinite suspension”. The Board said it is reviewing the decision Facebook made today and will offer further comment once the review is complete.

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