Facebook Oversight Committee Taking Comments on Trump’s Suspension

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
January 29, 2021Updated: January 29, 2021

Social media giant Facebook has called for comments from the public on former President Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension from the platform, with the input set to inform a decision by an advisory panel on whether Trump will be allowed back on.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which includes lawyers, current and former journalists, rights advocates, and academics, said in an announcement Friday that people and groups with “valuable perspectives” on Trump’s suspension can submit their comments via an online form by a Feb. 8 deadline. The advisory group has until April to decide on whether to reinstate Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, which the company froze after the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

On the day that the Capitol was stormed as Congress was gathered to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, Trump made two posts on Facebook that the company found objectionable and removed, publicly citing Trump’s “use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.”

Donald Trump
Then President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

The first of these posts was a one-minute video to Facebook and Instagram with the following content: “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt.”

The message continued: “It’s a very tough period of time. There’s never been a time like this, where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us—from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”

Rioters storm the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP Photo, File)

Facebook said it removed the video for violating its Community Standard on Dangerous Individuals and Organizations under its policy prohibiting praise, support, and representation of events that Facebook designates as “violating.”

The second of Trump’s messages to be banned was a written statement on Facebook: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Protesters and rioters gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building
Protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Facebook said it removed the second post under the same Standard, “but has not yet clarified the specific aspect of the policy that it applied.” After removing the second post, Facebook imposed a 24-hour ban on Trump’s ability to post anything on Facebook or Instagram.

Later, after reviewing Trump’s communications outside the platform, Facebook determined to extend the block indefinitely.

As part of its comment-seeking process on the indefinite suspension, Facebook is looking for input as to whether the lockout “complied with the company’s responsibilities to respect freedom of expression and human rights,” whether it should have taken different measures, and what actions should be taken with respect to Trump’s accounts going forward.

More broadly, Facebook is also seeking input on how it should weigh off-platform content in its enforcement decisions, and how it should “treat the expression of political candidates, office holders, and former office holders, considering their varying positions of power, the importance of political opposition, and the public’s right to information.”

The public comments will be posted online when the board publishes its ruling in the Trump case, according to the company.

Facebook’s Oversight Board is intended as a kind of “supreme court” for the company’s own policy making, with its decisions binding—”they can’t be overruled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg or anyone else at Facebook,” the company said.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.