Facebook board upholds Trump ban

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT) May 5, 2021
10 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:52 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Catch up: What we learned this morning about Facebook's decision to keep banning Trump

Facebook's court-like Oversight Board announced this morning that the social network can keep blocking former President Trump from using its platform, affirming the company's decision to suspend Trump in January after the US Capitol riots.

If you're just reading in now, here's what you need to know about the decision — and what comes next:

  • What happened today: The Oversight Board — an independent entity for appealing content decisions on Facebook-owned platforms, which is made up of 20 experts in areas like free expression, human rights, and journalism — said Facebook can keep blocking former President Trump from using its platform.
  • The decision must be reviewed again: However, the board said Facebook must review the decision within six months. "Within six months of this decision, Facebook must reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty," the board wrote, adding such penalty "must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm." Facebook said in a statement that it will "consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate."
  • Criticism within the ruling: The board also criticized Facebook for having made the suspension indefinite. "In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities," the decision said.
  • About the initial ban: Former President Trump was suspended "indefinitely" from Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 7, a day after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn the 2020 election results. Mark Zuckerberg wrote at the time, "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great." Twitter and YouTube took similar steps, citing an ongoing risk of violence and incitement.
11:00 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Facebook's oversight board puts Trump decision back to Zuckerberg

Analysis from CNN's Donie O’Sullivan

The Facebook Oversight Board was designed to make some of Facebook’s most difficult decisions for the company. But on Wednesday, the board put one of the biggest dilemmas facing the platform back on Facebook and the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

The board said Facebook was right to suspend Trump in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, but said Facebook couldn’t just make the suspension “indefinite” with no actual rule on its books allowing for that.

The board said Facebook must review the decision and figure out if Trump should be banned from the platform forever.

The board could have made that decision itself, but by choosing to hand the decision back to Facebook it once again puts Zuckerberg’s powerful role in overseeing public discourse in the United States in the spotlight, along with the arbitrary nature of how Facebook moderates it platform. 

Facebook has six months from today to decide Trump’s fate.

Notably, the board also told Facebook it needed to consider several other measures, including “a comprehensive review of Facebook’s potential contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and the exacerbated tensions that culminated in the violence in the United States on January 6.”

The board said such a review “should be an open reflection on the design and policy choices that Facebook has made that may allow its platform to be abused.”

9:33 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Facebook says it will consider board's decision and determine action that is "clear and proportionate"

Facebook just released a statement reacting to the oversight board's decision this morning ruling that Facebook can keep blocking former President Trump from using its platform.

"As we stated in January, we believe our decision was necessary and right, and we’re pleased the board has recognized that the unprecedented circumstances justified the exceptional measure we took," Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications, said in the statement.

The board said, however, that Facebook must review its decision to block Trump from the platform within six months.

Clegg noted that Facebook will "consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate."

"However, while the board has not required Facebook to immediately restore Mr. Trump’s accounts, it has not specified the appropriate duration of the penalty. Instead, the board criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension, calling it an 'indeterminate and standardless penalty,' and insisted we review our response. We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate," the statement said.

In the meantime, Clegg said, Trump’s accounts will remain suspended.

Clegg also noted that Facebook will "carefully review" the board's recommendations on how they can improve their policies. 

9:27 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Trump has not changed his messaging since his account was suspended, CNN analyst says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. 
Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. 

Facebook suspended Donald Trump's account in January after the US Capitol riots and since the suspension, the former President has not changed his messaging, according to CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich.

"We're seeing the same messaging he had, you know, before the riot, continuing while he is at Mar-a-lago. He's still saying the election was stolen," she told CNN. "There hasn't been a change of heart and a mind there and perhaps — I will find out later maybe — that went into this decision. And I know that was a concern on the [political] left, that this would perhaps continue to inflame tensions."

Facebook's court-like Oversight Board said Wednesday that the social network can keep blocking former President Trump from using its platform. 

Trump had access to his Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram accounts cut off on January 7, a day after the deadly insurrection in Washington DC. Zuckerberg wrote at the time, "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great."

Kucinich also pointed to the significance of this decision with Trump "eyeing perhaps a comeback in 2024."

"The Trump campaign in 2020 and in 2016 spent quite a bit of money advertising on Facebook and fundraising on Facebook. And for 2024 ... Facebook would be a critical part of that small donor fundraising strategy for his team," she said.

The suspension would also allow the congressional Republicans to "forge their own message and to stay on one topic if they are attacking Democrats. So there was a bit of a sigh of relief there, too," Kucinich added.

9:20 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Facebook's ban on Trump was upheld. Here's what happens now.

Moments ago, Facebook's Oversight Board announced the social media giant can keep blocking former President Trump from using its platform.

But the board also said Facebook must review the decision within six months.

Here's how the board put it:

"Within six months of this decision, Facebook must reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty ... This penalty must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm. It must also be consistent with Facebook's rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate."

Trump was suspended "indefinitely" from Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 7, a day after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn the 2020 election results. 

Twitter and YouTube took similar steps, citing an ongoing risk of violence and incitement.

9:15 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Oversight board upholds Facebook decision to ban Trump, but says platform should review penalty

From CNN's Brian Fung

Facebook can keep blocking former President Trump from using its platform, the social network's court-like Oversight Board said Wednesday. The landmark move affirms the company's decision to suspend Trump in January after the US Capitol riots.

However, the board said Facebook must review the decision within six months.

"Within six months of this decision, Facebook must reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty," the board wrote in its decision. "This penalty must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm. It must also be consistent with Facebook's rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate."

The board also criticized Facebook for having made the suspension indefinite. "In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities," the decision said.

The decision also applies to Facebook-owned Instagram where Trump has an account. Trump has almost 60 million followers across Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook suspended Trump's account following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and later referred that decision to the board, an independent body which has the power to reverse Facebook content decisions and set precedent for the company.

8:47 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Facebook announced this decision was coming 2 days ago

From CNN's Richard Davis and Brian Fung

In just a few moments, The Facebook Oversight Board will announce its long-anticipated decision on the fate of former President Trump's Facebook account.

The decision is expected to drop at 9 a.m. ET. Facebook announced on Monday that this decision would be released today.

The Board said last month that it had received more than 9,000 public responses concerning Trump's indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram.

8:58 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

Here's a reminder of what happened to Trump's Facebook account

From CNN's Donie O'Sullivan

President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. 
President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. 

Former President Trump was suspended "indefinitely" from Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 7, a day after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn the 2020 election results. 

Zuckerberg wrote at the time, "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great."

Twitter and YouTube took similar steps, citing an ongoing risk of violence and incitement.

The decision of Facebook's oversight board on whether Trump should be allowed back on the platform is supposed to be binding, meaning Facebook is supposed to take the action.

The board will publish its decision on its website along with an explanation of how it reached the decision. It will not, however, make public who on the board voted which way; the board members are not supposed to reveal that information themselves either.

The board's decision will be announced at 9 a.m. ET today. 

You can read more about the board and today's decision here.

8:30 a.m. ET, May 5, 2021

What you need to know about the board deciding whether Trump can return to Facebook

From CNN's Donie O'Sullivan

The question of whether former President Trump should be allowed back on Facebook is the biggest, most contentious and most controversial single content moderation decision the company has ever made.

So who's going to make that call? Well, surprisingly, not company founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The decision will instead be made by the Facebook Oversight Board, an independent body often described as a kind of Supreme Court for Facebook. The board's decision will be announced this morning.

Here are key things to know about the board:

  • What is the Facebook Oversight Board? The board is an independent, court-like entity for appealing content decisions on Facebook-owned platforms. It's made up of 20 experts in areas like free expression, human rights, and journalism. Content moderation decisions — for instance, removing or not removing a particular post — made by Facebook and Instagram can be appealed to the board once users have gone all the way through the company's internal review process. Facebook says that decisions made by the board are final. Facebook first announced its intention to form an independent entity to vet content decisions in November 2018. After some delay, the company announced in October 2020 that the board would begin to hear cases.
  • Who is on the board? Included among the 20 current members of the board are notable individuals from around the world, including Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark; Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian; and Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who promoted non-violent change in Yemen during the Arab Springa movement in which social media played an important role.
  • But the board is just going to do whatever Facebook wants, right? Nope. The board is designed to be independent of Facebook, according to its charter. Facebook funds a trust that, in turn, funds the board. The trustees are "responsible for safeguarding the independence" of the board. Critics of the company argue the board is not truly independent and is a "Facebook-paid, Facebook-appointed body created by Facebook to use to launder its most politically sensitive decisions."
  • Does Facebook have to do what the board says? A decision made by the board "will be binding and Facebook will implement it promptly, unless implementation of a resolution could violate the law," according to the board's charter.

Read more here.