Oversight Board Upholds Facebook's Initial Suspension of Trump, but Says Company Must Reassess

"At the time of Mr. Trump's posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm."


Facebook was initially justified in suspending former President Donald Trump's account, the social media company's Oversight Board has ruled.

The indefinite nature of the suspension is "not appropriate," however, and Facebook must conduct a review "within six months" to explain why Trump is still not allowed back.

The Facebook Oversight Board's decision was released Wednesday morning. The board consists of 20 members, chosen by the company to revisit controversial moderation decisions. They tend to have free speech backgrounds—Cato Institute Vice President John Samples is one—and are empowered to expand the board by choosing up to 20 additional members. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to abide by whatever decisions they reach, though he is not legally required to do so.

Thus far, the board has shown a willingness to overrule Facebook and defend the existence of provocative speech on the platform. The board previously voted to restore the account of a user in Myanmar who had posted anti-Muslim bigotry at a time when that country's Muslim minority—the Rohingya—face widespread state-sanctioned violence and oppression.

Not so for Trump: In its decision, the board concluded that the former president's two posts on January 6 "severely violated" Facebook's rules prohibiting support of violence:

The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump's posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions. As president, Mr. Trump had a high level of influence. The reach of his posts was large, with 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram.

Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump's accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7.

The board did take issue with the indefinite aspect of the punishment: Facebook's stated options for moderating content are "removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account." Since the company did not choose any of these options, it is essentially handling Trump's account differently than all other ones.

"In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities," wrote the board. "The Board declines Facebook's request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty."

Zuckerberg might counter that he created this institution specifically for the purpose of outsourcing controversial moderation decisions to a third party, and that avoiding ultimate responsibility was the entire point. That the board is interpreting its role this narrowly and instead forcing Facebook to justify its indefinite suspension of Trump shows that no one even tangentially involved in content moderation wants to be on the hook for the kinds of calls that tend to make people furious.

The board's decision also recommends that Facebook "rapidly escalate content containing political speech from highly influential users to specialized staff who are familiar with the linguistic and political context. These staff should be insulated from political and economic interference, as well as undue influence." This would probably constitute an improvement—at present, the platform often relies on cues from partisan media figures when deciding to turn down the viral reach of certain pieces of content, which has led to disaster.

Trump, for his part, had argued in a statement to the board that his Facebook posts had absolutely no connection to the January 6 riots, that all of his "genuine" supporters behaved in a law-abiding way, and that "outside forces" were ultimately responsible, which is frankly ridiculous.

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  1. It doesn’t matter what the oversight board says. Facebook sucks anyway. Don’t use their service. Invite your friends and family to use something else instead.

    1. Disaffected, marginalized, defeated, defensive right-wing clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

      1. When President Biden said recently that there was only one possible verdict in the Chauvin trial, he as much as said riots were justified, at least as much as Trump called for an assault on the Capitol. If a mistrial is called, as seems possible, is Biden responsible for what happens?

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        2. Anyone, who posted that the George Floyd incident was racism – an “unfounded narrative” – and called for action, was more responsible for violence that Donald Trump ever was.
          Was a single person banned from FaceCrack, or any other platform for making such claims and calls?
          Trump being banned in relation to these others, that created an environment where a serious risk of violence was not only possible, but was realized, demonstrates FaceCrack was not using good faith in its use of “moderation” – a violation of the protection FEDGOV has given them.

      2. Facebook sucks for all sorts of reasons–even progressives think so.

        “Facebook is doing pretty well right now . . . They’ve acquired potential competitors WhatsApp and Instagram. More than 85% of all social networking traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Facebook. They’ve got a lot of power — and face little competition or accountability . . . .

        “My plan to #BreakUpBigTech would undo their illegal, anticompetitive mergers. You’ll still be able to use Facebook and Instagram to catch up with friends and family and share photos of your dog. But they’ll have to compete with each other to make a better product for you. Imagine Facebook and Instagram trying to outdo each other to protect your privacy and keep misinformation out of your feed, instead of working together to sell your data, inundate you with misinformation, and undermine our election security.”

        —-Elizabeth Warren


        P.S. You suck, too, Kirkland.

      3. You are a scumbag.

    2. Now that Facebook’s new oversight board proclaimed that Trump’s
      civil statements advocating peaceful protest “”severely violated” Facebook’s rules prohibiting support of violence”, can we expect similar statements about (and suspend accounts) postings that blatantly advocated, endorsed and organized violence the past year by BLM, Antifa, Harris, Biden, Waters and most Democrats in Congress (and all left wing media propaganda that’s been posted daily on Facebook?

      I’ve never used Facebook or Twitter, and never will.

  2. Ok facebook now do Maxine Waters, a person who has made real threats of violence

    1. Gives a whole new meaning to “blacklisted”.

  3. Who cares the company repeatedly has kicked conservatives and libertarians out, they decided their message was to be far left and that’s who they attract. Businesses that stay on it are profiting off death merchants on the left.

  4. It’s a more favorable treatment of Trump than I expected. They seem to have focused on the legal basis that you have to have rules and standards.

    However, what’s most interesting is what is not said.

    The unstated fact is that there are equal, and even more violent statements said by influential people on the platform that routinely are ignored. These statements up to and including calls for genocide against whites and mass sterilization against men.

    The riots last year had a double digit death toll from gunfire. However, the organizers are able to freely post and even collect funds via all social media platforms.

    As for the last sentence. Trump is disassociating himself with violent aspects. It’s not a statement so much as a demand to his supporters. He’s publicly disowning them to remove any possible idea that they had his tacit support. Isn’t that what the media has been asking for? Will they never be happy?

    1. Were they happy at Charlottesville when he attacked the violent people on both sides?

      Of course not. They don’t want him to just disassociate himself from right-wing violence, they want him to pretend that there is ONLY right-wing violence.

      And so long as the left is determined to pretend he incited violence, FB will treat him as though he incited violence, no matter what he actually did.

      All the oversight board did was demand that FB do it formally, according to their announced rules, rather than informally. There was really very little chance their own hand picked board would tell them to relent from censorship, and its role is only advisory anyway.

      1. Next you’re going to argue the Scalise shooting wasn’t suicide by cop.

    2. They seem to have focused on the legal basis that you have to have rules and standards.

      yet said to continue the punishment not found in the rules.

  5. The Trump ban is fine, but the organization needs to find the courage to admit it was a punitive decision and for no other reason.

  6. The decision seemed a reasoned response to provocation, abuse, and lies. There is nothing wrong with having standards and imposing consequences for misconduct.

    1. So why does Water’s or AOC still have their Facebook pages?

      1. So what as AOC ever done that would would warrant taking down her FB page?

        And I don’t believe that Rep. Water made her comments on FB. Would you then say that any controversial comment made on FB or on some other media is sufficient to remove a FB page? Because if you are then a lot of people are losing their pages.

    2. There is nothing wrong with having standards and imposing consequences for misconduct.

      Sure, if the standards are consistently and impartially applied.

  7. “The board consists of 20 members, chosen by the company to revisit controversial moderation decisions. They tend to have free speech backgrounds—Cato Institute Vice President John Samples is one—and are empowered to expand the board by choosing up to 20 additional members. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to abide by whatever decisions they reach, though he is not legally required to do so.

    One of the issues with Facebook is that the overwhelming majority of voting shares are retrained by Mark Zuckerberg. There is a ton of Facebook stock out there with no voting rights. It’s important not to use the terms “Facebook” and “Mark Zuckerberg” as if there were any real distinction between them when we’re talking about management decisions.

    In other companies, even with a dominant founder like Apple or Microsoft had, the shareholders would vote for a board of directors to oversee the CEO and the management of the company. Because Zuckerberg dominates the voting shares, no one can get on the board of directors at Facebook unless Zuckerberg, the CEO, puts them there.

    There were two time over the last few years, when Facebook was suffering ad boycotts and it lost 40% of its value, that other companies’ shareholders might have elected a new board of directors and replaced the CEO. That can’t happen at Facebook because Zuckerberg controls the voting completely.

    Talking about an independent board at Facebook overseeing anything management does is absurd under those conditions. Zuckerberg has total control of the board of directors at Facebook, and the board of directors at Facebook overseeing management is Zuckerberg overseeing himself. Do not take the independence of this or any other committee at Facebook too seriously.

    The old saying has it that a mediocre prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and when a prosecutor takes a case of police brutality to a grand jury, rather than just charging the cop himself, it’s usually because the prosecutor doesn’t want to upset the law enforcement unions by indicting a cop–but by taking it to a grand jury, it makes it look to the people who want the cop prosecuted like he tried. In reality, the District Attorney depends on endorsements, donations, and volunteers from law enforcement unions to get elected, and the grand jury is just there to provide a show for plausible deniability. The grand jury won’t indict–nothing I can do!

    That’s how we should see this independent board. The jury was stacked by Zuckerberg, and the chances of them finding against whatever Zuckerberg wants them to find are practically nil. We should not carry water for Zuckerberg’s PR stunts. If Zuckerberg has a right to do what he wants with his own company, he has that right regardless of whether he’s doing a show trial for PR purposes.

    Make that case if you want, but we sell our own credibility short when we hype the independence of Zuckerberg’s board–whether we mean to or not and whether we realize it or not.

    1. I’m seeing that there are 2.882 billion shares of Facebook outstanding.

      Zuckerberg owns 400 million shares or about 14% of the company.

      According to their proxy statement, Zuckerberg owns 58% of the voting shares.


      The most minimally invasive thing the Justice Department might do to Facebook that might be more effective than anything else is to get Zuckerberg to agree to distribute his voting rights to all shareholders equally–through a consent decree. If Zuckerberg only retained 14% of the voting shares, his tenure as CEO might not survive another big hit to Facebook’s stock price. He might agree to do that rather than be forced to spin off WhatsApp, Instagram, and engage in no further acquisitions without approval from the Justice Department.

      Being broken up is what he fears the most.

      1. With the current makeup of the Justice Dept, working under the Biden administration, do you seriously expect any Federal action to restrict FB?

        1. They hate them for different reasons, but the progressives hate Facebook, too.

    2. Ken wrote

      “In reality, the District Attorney depends on endorsements, donations, and volunteers from law enforcement unions to get elected,”

      Except in counties (e.g. Philly, LA, St. Louis) where George Soros bankrolled campaigns by far left wing Democrat DA candidates who support BLM, who disdain police, and who refuse (once elected) to do their sworn duties to uphold the Constitution and prosecute criminals (especially repeat offenders).


        1. Stunning insight. You seem to be taking all of these Biden wins lately extra hard.


    “But says the decision must be reviewed in six months. That “time limit” is a clever way of trying to limit his reach while recognizing a reality that social media companies and the political establishment will have to face, but that nobody talks about.

    If Trump decides to run again in 2024, they keep him banned from their platforms, and he loses, there will be no way to convince his supporters that the election was fair — because it wouldn’t be. And if he were to win in spite of the bans, they would have to expect severe revenge from his supporters.

    This is a very dangerous game they’re playing, and I see no evidence that they are even aware of it. But self-awareness is not Silicon Valley’s strong point.”

    1. Where this guy screws up is in thinking that the election in 2024 will actually happen.

      1. What do you mean? that Trumptards will stage a successful Jan 6 style Capital coup? Or that the 2020 election will be overturned?

        1. Should I mute Buttplug or continue to mock his retarded ass?

          1. Decisions, decisions . . .

            For now I’m only muting the spam bots.

      2. Elections still happen in Venezuela, don’t they?

        1. Well, they still call them elections. Even though only government-approved candidates run.

      3. Oh, they’ll happen. Even Stalinist Russia had elections.

        The question is to what extent they’ll be rigged, not whether they’ll happen, short of an active civil war, we WILL be holding elections. They just might be meaningless.

  9. “which is frankly ridiculous”

    I wonder if the Reason Foundation makes them append this kind of horseshit to their analysis.


    1. To mute or not to mute? That is the question.

      If there were one, single post, over all the years you’ve been here, that wasn’t stupid or awful, I might not have muted you.

      I can’t think of one.

      Muting Shrike is like using an ad-blocker. You can always unmute him later if you want. The less attention we pay to the trolls, the better.

      1. Nah, I like to see how far sarcasmic is devolving into the same type of banter as him. there seems to be a race condition between those two.

      2. Only 3 on my mute list so far. It’s effectively the same as what I’ve been doing: skipping anything written by certain handles. This is actually a great feature they’ve added and now I don’t have to scroll past 20% of the comment space

  11. What’s up Peanuts?

    Little news from the WSJ:

    Household income rose at a record pace of 21.1% in March as federal-stimulus checks helped fuel an economic revival that is poised to endure with an easing pandemic.

    The 21.1% March surge in income was the largest monthly increase for government records tracing back to 1959, largely reflecting $1,400 stimulus checks included in President Biden’s fiscal relief package signed into law in March. The stimulus payments accounted for $3.948 trillion of the overall seasonally adjusted $4.213 trillion rise in March personal income.

    Recovery on! Trump’s dog-ass economy gone!

    1. Meanwhile, 20% of dollars were BRRRRRRRRRRRed into existence this year.

      1. Inflation will hit this year. The difference this time is that with direct stimulus, the people got to use their money before inflation discounted the dollar value instead of banks getting to use the money before inflation.

    2. Yeah, enjoy what the numbers look like next year, after they’ve been adjusted for inflation.

      Oh, and you might just want to buy a wheelbarrow.

    3. Further evidence SPB doesn’t understand economics in the slightest. LOL.

      1. No, I am the best here on economics.

        I made fun of the inflation doomers back in 2009-11 when QE vastly increased M2 and M3 by correctly predicting there would be NO inflation for years. I knew that because of all the over capacity in housing and plants/malls/strips.

        This time? Could be different. I see 2-3% inflation.

    4. This is kind of like colleges giving stipends to graduates to perform “volunteer” work in order to pad post-graduate employment numbers. Surely a sustainable model, just like endlessly expanding the nation’s money supply.

  12. “oversight board gives thumbs up to powerful company” is barely a news story. zzzzzzzz

    1. “Oversight board approves employer’s actions”

  13. Trump already has his own site ; https://www.donaldjtrump.com/desk
    He’s issuing mean twumps regularly. Careful though, some of you girls may need your smelling salts.
    How long before they try to take it down or find a Hawaiian judge to force him to accept comments?

  14. Seems pretty reasonable. I doubt the former President will settle down, but I could be wrong. If so then it would not hurt to let him have the FB page back.

    The upside here is he will have to work harder to fleece his marks. Also the Republicans can plan to get money and not have him syphoning it off to his private kitty.

  15. in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud
    Someone show them the Time article bragging how the Left formed a “cabal” (their word) to protect the election against conservative voters.

    1. You mean “The Article That Shall Never Be Referred To, Lest One Be Cancelled”?

  16. The Facebook Oversight Board has upheld the decision by the social media giant to suspend former U.S. president Donald Trump’s account, though it also had criticism for the company’s policies.

    Since the day after the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump’s social media accounts have been silent — muzzled for using the platforms as online megaphones to try to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power following the presidential election.

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