Facebook's Oversight Board, the $130 million group that helps make decisions about whether posts violate the company's policies, upheld the tech giant's decision to restrict then-President Donald Trump's ability to post on Facebook and Instagram. Still, the twenty-member board concluded the tech monopoly didn't follow its own procedures when dealing with Trump and insisted that Facebook reexamine the matter and develop a response consistent with the rules applied to the millions of others users on its platform.
While Twitter banned President Trump permanently, Facebook indefinitely blocked Trump's access to his 59 million followers on its platforms in the wake of the events that unfolded on Jan. 6 at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans gathered for a rally to protest the certification of the Electoral College following the 2020 General Election. A group of twelve senators led by Ted Cruz (R-TX) formed a coalition and planned to object to the certification of electors "unless and until there is an emergency 10-day audit" of the disputed states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
On Jan. 6, while President Trump was at the podium speaking to the crowd and the joint session has separated into House and Senate chambers to debate the objections to certifying Arizona's electoral votes, large crowds of protestors gathered and eventually rushed into the Capitol Building. Due to the security breach, both houses of Congress ended their sessions, and several hours later, Vice President Mike Pence officially declared Joe Biden, the winner of the election. Following these events, on Jan. 21, Facebook indefinitely extended Trump's access to posting on Facebook and Instagram.
Screenshot/Save America, President Donald J. Trump
When announcing their decision on Wednesday, the Oversight Board gave Facebook six months to examine this matter. Additionally, the board made policy recommendations for the social media giant to implement "in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression." Co-chair of the Oversight Board, former George W. Bush appointed federal judge Michael McConnell, said in a press conference after the decision:
"Indefinite penalties of this sort do not pass the international or American smell test for clarity, consistency, and transparency."
Immediately after Trump's suspension in January, before sending the matter to his board, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who, through the "left-leaning" Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), gave millions in "safe elections" funding leading up to the 2020 election) commented, "the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great." Following the Oversight Board's decision to uphold the ban, Facebook vice president of global affairs and communication, Nick Clegg, said in a blog post:
"We will now consider the board's decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate. In the meantime, Mr. Trump's accounts remain suspended."
Meanwhile, a group of Facebook detractors and scholarly experts, who call themselves the "Real Facebook Oversight Board" disagree with the "failed" decision of the FB Oversight Board, declaring, "This verdict is a desperate attempt to have it both ways, upholding the 'ban' of Donald Trump without actually banning him, while punting any real decisions back to Facebook. Donald Trump has used Facebook to spread disinformation and incite hate and violence for years."
Mark Meadows, President Trump's Chief of Staff, was not surprised by today's decision of the recently-established Oversight Board and warned of big tech's assault on conservatives, asserting that it won't stop until they are broken up and held accountably. GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy agreed with the assessment there will be future attacks on Republicans, tweeting:
"Facebook is more interested in acting like a Democrat Super PAC than a platform for free speech and open debate. If they can ban President Trump, all conservative voices could be next. A House Republican majority will rein in big tech power over our speech."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said the impact of social media and the tech companies has attracted a lot of interest in the Capitol, and legislators plan to study outdated regulations governing them. He praised the Oversight Board's decision, saying in a Washington Post interview, "So they've made a determination, and they don't want to be an avenue to convey that, through their medium, and I think they have the right to do that."
On Tuesday, President Trump launched a new platform called "Save America" to share messages that readers can then re-post to their Facebook or Twitter accounts. The platform is a one-way communication and does not allow followers to "reply" to Trump's posts, but it does allow him to communicate with his followers. Looking ahead, senior Trump advisor Jason Miller told Fox News there are plans for an interactive social media platform, adding, "We'll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future." The "About" section on Save America summarizes the President's mindset, proclaiming:
Over the past four years, my administration delivered for Americans of all backgrounds like never before. Save America is about building on those accomplishments, supporting the brave conservatives who will define the future of the America First Movement, the future of our party, and the future of our beloved country. Save America is also about ensuring that we always keep America First in our foreign and domestic policy. We take pride in our country, we teach the truth about our history, we celebrate our rich heritage and national traditions, and of course, we respect our great American Flag.