Facebook Oversight Board delays decision about Trump's possible return

By Cody Godwin
BBC News, San Francisco

Published
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Facebook's Oversight Board has delayed its decision regarding former US President Donald Trump's possible return to Facebook and Instagram.

Mr Trump was banned from Facebook in January after the Capitol Hill riots.

The Board said the delay was due to the time it has taken to review over 9,000 public responses to cases.

A decision was originally due by 21 April. In a statement on Twitter, the Board said it would make a decision "in the coming weeks".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The ruling will be the biggest decision the Oversight Board has had to make since it started taking on cases last year.

The Board was set up to rule on difficult or controversial moderation decisions made by Facebook.

The 20-member committee, established by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, is often referred to as "Facebook's Supreme Court". It operates as an independent entity, although its wages and others costs are covered by the tech company.

The committee is made up of journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and academics.

The group has already ruled on nine cases including:

  • a comment that seemed derogatory to Muslims - in a post from a user in Myanmar, removed for breaking hate-speech rules - was found not to be Islamophobic, when taken in context
  • an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels - in an old post reshared by a US user, removed for violating polices on dangerous individuals and organisations - did not support Nazi ideology, again when taken in context
  • a video about Covid-19 "cures" - referred to the board by Facebook - was a comment about French government health policy and would not lead people to self-medicate
  • an Instagram post of eight photographs of breast-cancer symptoms should not have been removed - by Facebook's automated moderation system, only to be restored before the board's decision - for breaking adult-nudity rules

Big Tech bans Trump

It's not just Mr Trump's account that is banned. Earlier this month Facebook extended their ban to include the "voice of Trump" after his daughter-in-law and Fox News contributor Laura Trump posted a video of her interviewing the former president.

Several Big Tech platforms took action after the Capitol Hill riots that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers injured. The former president was accused of inciting violence and repeatedly spreading disinformation.

He is suspended on YouTube, but chief executive Susan Wojcicki has said they may lift the ban when the threat of "real-world violence" decreases.

He is permanently banned on Twitter.

According to data from CrowdTangle, some of Mr Trump's Facebook posts were among the most popular in the US.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

It has been a few months without Mr Trump on social media and with the threat of that being permanent, he has been considering creating a platform of his own.

Trump adviser Jason Miller told Fox News in March that he expects the former Republican president will return with his "own platform".

A huge decision for Facebook delayed

It's hard to understate Facebook's use to Donald Trump.

He and his high-profile supporters expertly used the platform to drum up support.

Regularly his updates would be some of the most read, shared and commented-on posts on the platform.

His ability to bypass traditional media and speak directly to people on social media was a key plank of Trumpism.

This decision then is hugely important to Mr Trump's future political ambitions.

And if you look at the decisions that the Oversight Board has already made, he has reason to be optimistic.

In making its decisions, the board has to try to weigh up the rights of freedom of expression with public safety. For most of their rulings so far this year they have erred on the side of free speech.

No-platforming works - we have not heard much from Trump since his election defeat. His megaphone has been taken away, and he desperately wants it back.

He's talked about launching his own social media platform - but building a social network takes time and there are no guarantees of success.

A far easier route to social media influence would be for Facebook to allow him back.

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