Facebook passes final decision to ban Trump to oversight board

The company suspended the former president's account after the Capitol riot.

January 21, 2021, 3:29 PM

Facebook said Thursday it was referring the decision to indefinitely suspend Donald Trump's account to its newly-formed oversight board to make the final call on what will happen to the former president's accounts.

The board was created to operate independently of Facebook, though Facebook is funding it with an initial commitment of $130 million, according to a company blog post from December 2019. The board took on its first cases a year later, this past December.

Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts were indefinitely suspended by Facebook on Jan. 7, just one day after a mob of pro-Trump supporters conducted a violent siege on the U.S. Capitol building. At the time, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg cited risk of violence and said the suspensions of Trump's accounts would last at least "until the peaceful transition of power is complete."

On Thursday, a day after Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the U.S., a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that it is handing the final decision on Trump's account to its oversight board "for their binding review."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump looks at his phone during a roundtable with governors on the reopening of America's small businesses, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump looks at his phone during a roundtable with governors on the reopening of America's small businesses, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.
Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs and communications, emphasized in a company blog post Thursday that the board's decision "can’t be overruled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg or anyone else at Facebook."

"We believe our decision was necessary and right," Clegg added. "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 added that Trump's account will remain suspended while they await the board's decision.

In a statement on its website, the oversight board outlined how it will make its decision, saying a five-member review panel will study the case and reach an initial decision. Once that group shares its decision with the entire board, it will require sign-off by a majority of the board members.

"Our Members are leaders in fields including human rights, law, journalism and technology, come from many different communities, and represent a wide range of views and beliefs," the statement added. "We believe that our Members, working through a strong and independent oversight process, can ensure decisions are made in a more principled and transparent way than what Facebook can deliver alone."

The statement said the members will decide whether Trump's content violated Facebook's Community Standards and will also consider whether the removal of the content involved in the case "respected international human rights standards, including on freedom of expression and other human rights."

Trump, through administrators, will have the ability to submit a statement to the oversight board explaining why he believes the decision should be overturned, the board added. The board will also "open a process for all interested individuals and organizations to submit public comments to share any insights and perspectives with the Board that they believe will assist with making a decision."

Finally, the oversight board said once it reaches a decision, Facebook will have up to seven days to implement it.

Fellow social media giant Twitter, meanwhile, said it was permanently suspending Trump's account. In a wide-ranging thread on Twitter last week, chief executive Jack Dorsey stood by the decision but added that the action sets a "dangerous" precedent.

The big tech clampdown on Trump's social media accounts earlier this month sparked debate and backlash even among Trump's critics.

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