Facebook Refers Trump Account Suspension to Its Oversight Board

January 21, 2021 Updated: January 21, 2021

Facebook will refer its decision to suspend former President Donald Trump’s account earlier this month to the company’s oversight board for a complete review, said company executive Nick Clegg.

“We believe our decision was necessary and right. Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld,” Clegg said in a statement on Thursday, adding that in the interim, the president’s “access will be suspended indefinitely.”

“We look forward to receiving the board’s decision—and we hope, given the clear justification for our actions on January 7, that it will uphold the choices we made,” he wrote of the move to suspend Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, which each had tens of millions of followers. “In addition to the board’s determination on whether to uphold or overturn the indefinite suspension, Facebook welcomes any observations or recommendations from the board around suspensions when the user is a political leader.”

Earlier this month, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, in explaining the move to suspend a sitting president, claimed that the risks of Trump using the platform through Inauguration Day were too great.

And Facebook wasn’t the only Big Tech company to suspend Trump’s account, as Twitter, Google, Snapchat, Twitch, and other platforms also suspended Trump’s access around the same time. It came after a riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The president, meanwhile, condemned the violence at the Capitol but defended statements he made on Jan. 6. “People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump told reporters more than a week ago. “We want no violence … absolutely no violence,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 23, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

“If you look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level, about the riots in the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places, that was the real problem,” Trump also remarked, noting that speeches and comments made by political leaders over the summer of 2020 may have incited violence.

Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives last week over his comments. About 10 Republicans joined Democrats to impeach him.

According to Facebook’s Oversight Board website in an update on Thursday: “Over the coming days, the case will be assigned to a five-member case review panel in accordance with our Bylaws and Rulebook. After the panel reaches a decision, its findings are shared with the entire Board. Sign-off by a majority of the Board is required for a case decision to be issued.”

The move to suspend Trump has drawn critical feedback from conservatives and civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), arguing that if social media companies can suspend the president’s accounts, they won’t stop there. Groups have also expressed alarm after Amazon, Apple, and Google, among other services, suspended various services used by social media website Parler. Amazon, in particular, argued that the social media website didn’t properly moderate alleged extremist content before essentially taking the entire network—and its millions of users—offline.

When a public “crisis has passed, pressure on basic infrastructure, as a tactic, will be re-used, inevitably, against unjustly marginalized speakers and forums. This is not a slippery slope, nor a tentative prediction—we have already seen this happen to groups and communities that have far less power and resources than the President of the United States and the backers of his cause,” the EFF said earlier this month after Parler was suspended by Amazon and Trump’s accounts were taken offline.

The privacy group added: “And this facility for broad censorship will not be lost on foreign governments who wish to silence legitimate dissent either. Now that the world has been reminded that infrastructure can be commandeered to make decisions to control speech, calls for it will increase, and principled objections may fall to the wayside.”

Following Trump’s suspension, Twitter moved to permanently suspend tens of thousands of accounts associated with the Qanon movement—as well as other conservatives.

A number of Big Tech alternatives including Gab, MeWe, Telegram, DuckDuckGo, Signal, and others have seen significant rises in traffic as users flock to pro-privacy and free-speech platforms.