Facebook Inc. on Friday announced that former US President Donald Trump would be banned from the network until at least January 2023, as well as reforms to how it will deal with rule-breaking foreign leaders in the future.
In May, Facebook’s independent monitoring board upheld the company’s ban on Trump, which was imposed in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol because the firm claimed his posts incited violence.
The board, however, concluded that making the ban indefinite was incorrect and granted it six months to come up with a “proportionate remedy.”
Trump’s two-year suspension was effective from the initial date he was he was blocked – Jan. 7 this year – and will only be reinstated if the risk of public safety had receded, Facebook said in a blog post. A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Facebook said it would work with experts to make this determination and would evaluate factors including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. It also said there would be a set of escalating sanctions that would be triggered if Trump broke further rules that could lead to his permanent removal.
“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,” Facebook’s head of global affairs Nick Clegg said in the post.
The timing of Trump’s suspension means Trump will not be able to use his accounts ahead of the November 2022 national midterm elections, when his party will be competing for Congressional seats, but may be able to return to social media well before the next presidential election in late 2024.
Social media companies have grappled in recent years with how to handle world leaders and politicians who violate their guidelines.
Trump’s suspension was the first time Facebook had blocked a current president, prime minister or head of state.
Facebook has come under fire from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech. But it has also been criticized by those, including Republican lawmakers and some free-expression advocates, who saw the Trump ban as a disturbing act of censorship.
In response to the board’s recommendations, the firm also declared that it would adjust the way it treats world leaders on its website. It is removing a policy that exempts lawmakers from some content moderation regulations because their content is deemed “newsworthy” in one reversal. When it does exercise this exemption, it will be transparent about it.
The statements came on the same day that the European Union and the United Kingdom initiated formal antitrust investigations into whether Facebook is abusing its enormous database of customer information.