Associated PressMay 5, 2021 10:33:54 AMT
Former President Donald Trump will find out if he will be able to return to Facebook on Wednesday when the social network’s quasi-independent supervisory board plans to announce its decision in a high-profile case.
The decision is likely to evoke strong emotions no matter which direction it goes. If the board decides on Trump’s behalf, Facebook has seven days to restore his account. If it upholds Facebook’s decision, Trump will remain “suspended for the time being”. This means he will remain banned from the platform for as long as Facebook deems appropriate.
This is how the process works and what can happen after Wednesday’s announcement.
Why was Trump suspended?
Trump’s Facebook account was suspended for inciting violence that led to the deadly January 6 Capitol riots. After years of handling Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric with a light touch, Facebook and Facebook, which Facebook owns, silenced his account on Jan. 7, saying at the time he was suspended “at least” by the end of his presidency on Jan. 20.
In a short video posted on his social media accounts, Trump had urged his supporters to “go home” while repeating lies about the integrity of the presidential election.
The change on Facebook came after Trump was launched on Twitter, which was his most popular site to reach millions of social media followers.
What is a Board of Supervisors and how does it make its decisions?
Facebook created a dashboard to decide on hidden content on its platforms. Its creation came in response to widespread criticism of the company’s inability to respond quickly and effectively to misinformation, hate speech, and low-impact campaigns. Facebook has said it doesn’t think it should be the last word on such monumental issues of content moderation and speech.
The 20 members of the board, which will eventually grow to 40, include the former Prime Minister of Denmark, the former editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper, as well as jurists, human rights experts and journalists.
The first four board members were elected by Facebook. The four then worked with Facebook to select new members. Facebook pays each board member a salary through “independent trust.”
Critics have questioned the government’s independence, saying it is just part of a Facebook public relations campaign aimed at drawing attention to the deeper problems of anger and misinformation that continue to flourish on its platforms.
A kind of almost supreme court, government decisions on matters are binding. It may also make other proposals that are not binding, but Facebook has so far indicated its willingness to take them into account.
What are the previous cases?
Facebook regularly takes thousands of messages and accounts, and about 150,000 of these cases have appealed to the Board of Supervisors since its launch in October. The government has said it will give priority to reviewing cases that could affect many users around the world. Its decisions so far have weighed on freedom of expression in favor of restricting content.
In a first decision announced in January, the government ordered Facebook to return messages sent by users that the company reported violating standards for adult nudity, hate speech, or dangerous individuals.
Did Trump receive special treatment from Facebook?
Until the January riots, Facebook and other social media platforms dealt with Trump largely with children’s gloves. This despite the history of spreading false information, declaring hatred and – which ultimately forbade him – inciting violence. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted this.
Trump had remained on Facebook because the company believes that “the public has the right to have the widest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech.” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 7 explaining the company’s decision to suspend Trump.
Part of this was the extra room for maneuver that Facebook has given to politicians and world leaders. But, as the events of January showed, there is also a limit for politicians, including US presidents.
Could Trump be denied again if he is returned?
Yeah. The Board of Supervisors will only decide on Trump’s “indefinite suspension” in January. If he is allowed back on Facebook, he will be subject to the same rules as other users. And since he is no longer president, he is not granted the exemptions previously granted.
How did other technology companies handle Trump?
Twitter banned him once and for all, not petitions. On YouTube, Trump’s channel is still live, but new videos are not allowed. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, YouTube makes no exceptions for politicians and world leaders. It has a three-strike policy that applies to all users, CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March.
YouTube “removes the suspension of the Donald Trump channel when we find that the risk of violence has decreased,” Wojcicki said. This has not yet happened.
Twitch and Snapchat also blocked Trump’s accounts, while Shopify overthrew Presidential-related Online Stores and Reddit removed the Trump subgroup.
What does this mean for other politicians?
Some human rights activists and other critics have beaten Facebook and other social media companies for not banning autocratic world leaders from their ships, even though they banned Trump. Although the company has previously restricted the accounts of other world leaders, Trump is the highest political figure to be suspended for as long as he has been.
Politicians, activists, and advocates of free speech are closely following Trump’s case because it may affect how the social network treats other politicians in the future. The Board of Supervisors could give Facebook other recommendations on how to treat political speech and world leaders – if it should continue to give them more leeway than, for example, ordinary users.
The government’s decision “is far less important than its rationale,” said Elizabeth Renieris, founding director of the Technology Ethics Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. “Trump was neither the first nor certainly the last public figure to abuse effective platforms for problematic and often dangerous purposes, including incitement to violence.”