Facebook sends Trump suspension to its oversight board

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Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook on Thursday said it’s referring its decision to indefinitely suspend the accounts of former President Donald Trump to its independent oversight board. The social media giant blocked Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram following the deadly US Capitol riot on Jan. 6, saying his posts posed an unacceptable risk. 

In a blog post Thursday, Facebook’s Nick Clegg said the decision to suspend Trump was “necessary and right” but not one the company should make on its own. 

“While we await the board’s decision, Mr. Trump’s access will remain suspended indefinitely,” wrote Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs. “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.”

Facebook’s oversight board, which can uphold or overturn decisions made by the social network, said on Thursday that it would accept the case. The board was established last year to make the final call on some of Facebook’s most difficult content decisions, and its rulings can’t be overturned by CEO Mark Zuckerberg or other executives. 

The 20-member board is made up of former judges, lawyers and journalists, and has up to 90 days to reach a decision on most cases. It accepted its first slate of cases in December 2020, including ones that involve hate speech. 

“The Oversight Board has been closely following events in the United States and Facebook’s response to them, and the Board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company’s decision,” the board wrote in a post on Thursday. 

Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and other sites also banned or suspended Trump from their platforms over concerns the former president’s remarks could incite more violence before or after President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. The moves, particularly by Twitter, have prompted criticism and concerns about the roles of private companies in determining the boundaries of free speech.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commissioner Thierry Breton are among some of the world leaders who have criticized the decision to de-platform Trump.