Former Deputy PM Turned Facebook Executive Defends 2-Year Trump Suspension

June 7, 2021 Updated: June 7, 2021

Former UK Deputy Prime Minister who now serves as Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, has defended the two-year suspension of former President Donald Trump from the social media platform.

“Free speech, free expression is not a free-for-all, it’s not a recipe for anarchy. We’ve always had rules, quite rightly as Facebook that you can, in a sense, kind of say what you like on Facebook but you can’t do that if that inflicts harm on others,” Clegg told BBC News on Saturday.

Clegg suggested that Trump’s posts to the social media platform on Jan. 6 as the U.S. Capitol was breached by protesters and rioters inflicted “harm” on others.

“It’s a pretty longstanding principle it goes right back to the mid-19th Century this idea that you’re free to do things, but not if that inflicts harm on others and that is a rule that we apply—doesn’t matter whether you are the Pope, the President of the United States, whether an ordinary user—you cannot use Facebook if you want to use Facebook in a way which leads to real world imminent harm, and we think it’s crystal clear in this case that is exactly what was happening on Jan. 6 in Washington D.C,” he explained.

Trump has contested Facebook’s classification of “harm” after Zuckerberg said on Jan. 7 that Facebook removed one of Trump’s Jan. 6 videos because, according to the CEO, the president decided “to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building.”

In the video, Trump called on the protesters to “go home peacefully,” while saying that the Nov. 3 election was fraught with voter fraud. The president also said that “we love you,” “you’re very special,” and that “I know your pain. I know you’re hurt.”

“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,” he remarked.

Earlier Jan. 6, Trump told a crowd on The Ellipse, approximately two miles from the Capitol, that people should go to the building, but do so “peacefully and patriotically.”

Clegg announced Trump’s two-year suspension on June 4, saying that when the two years elapse, Facebook plans to review with experts whether the “risk to public safety has receded.”

“If the risk is still present, the suspension will be extended. If it isn’t, the company is setting in place a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts,” Clegg said in a blog post.

Trump has continued to pan Facebook and other Big Tech companies, accusing them of uneven moderation standards. Internal video footage and other evidence support the accusations.

During a speech to Republicans in North Carolina on Saturday, the former president called the decision to suspend him from the social media platform “so unfair,” alleging that the Big Tech company was silencing the voices of “a much more powerful and much larger group.”

In a separate interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Clegg said that Facebook’s ban on Trump is proportionate, fair, and reflects improved processes within the company.

“Our job is not to take the decisions with an eye to, you know, which side of the political aisle is going to agree or disagree more with us, but just to do so in a way that is fair, transparent, and proportionate,” Clegg said.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.