Trump Appeals Suspension to Rejoin Facebook, Instagram

Trump Appeals Suspension to Rejoin Facebook, Instagram
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Former President Donald Trump has submitted a statement of appeal to an oversight board funded by Facebook in a bid to rejoin the platform. The decision is expected to take around two and a half months.

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who is a co-chair of the oversight board, told UK’s Channel 4 News that they are currently looking into the appeal concerning Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The board was set up to be an independent group to hear users’ appeals and is comprised of 19 former politicians, journalists, and academics.

“It’s a very high profile case but that is exactly why the Oversight Board was created in the first place,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, the board confirmed that “a user statement has been received in the case before the Oversight Board concerning President Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.”

“We will have no further comment concerning that statement until the Board has issued its decision,” they added.

Trump’s office did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

Thorning-Schmidt said that the board has 90 days to render a decision, adding that although the members would like to expedite the process, the time frame is necessary to allow for translations and experts to share their opinions.

The board is also reviewing public comments on Trump’s appeal. Thorning-Schmidt said they have already received “thousands” of public comments in this case.

Facebook suspended Trump indefinitely in early January following the breach of the U.S. Capitol. The Silicon Valley company was not the only platform to ban Trump amid a campaign these companies say is to remove harmful content from their platforms. Twitter, Google, Snapchat, Twitch, and other platforms also suspended Trump’s access around the same time.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg justified his company’s censorship by claiming the risks of Trump using the platform through Inauguration Day were too great.

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete,” Zuckerberg said in a statement at the time.

On the day that the Capitol was breached 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.”

In both of the posts, one being a video, Trump told his supporters that “we have to have peace” and told them to “go home.”

Facebook said it removed the two posts 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.”

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

Trump said last week that he was looking into options to return to social media including joining an existing platform or creating his own. He has, however, ruled out re-joining Twitter, which he called “very boring” after many conservative users departed from the platform after his permanent ban.

Perceived unbalanced moderation of users’ content by social media companies has raised concerns over First Amendment rights and a lack of checks and balances for decisions made by Big Tech companies.

Congress is looking to hold Big Tech companies accountable for their actions and has been seeking to legislate a new antitrust law. On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a March 25 hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who will be expected to testify on misinformation on online platforms.

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
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