Dear Commons Community,
Facebook announced yesterday that Donald J. Trump’s suspension from the service would last at least more two years, keeping the former president off mainstream social media for the 2022 midterm elections. The company also said it would end a policy of treating posts from politicians differently from those of other users.
The social network said Mr. Trump would be eligible for reinstatement in January 2023, before the next presidential election. It will then look to experts to decide “whether the risk to public safety has receded,” Facebook said. The company barred Mr. Trump from the service after he made comments on social media that rallied his supporters, who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but it had not given a firm timeline about when or if the suspension would end. As reported by the New York Times.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols,” Nick Clegg, the vice president of global affairs at Facebook, wrote in a company blog post.
If reinstated, Mr. Trump would be subject to a set of “rapidly escalating sanctions” if he committed further violations, up to and including the permanent suspension of his account, Facebook said.
Facebook also said it was ending a policy of keeping posts by politicians up by default even if their speech broke its rules.
For years, Facebook and other social media companies had said they would not interfere with political speech because it was in the public interest. During Mr. Trump’s presidency, the companies did not rein in his inflammatory language as he attacked enemies and spread misinformation. They changed their stance after Mr. Trump’s use of social media on the day of the Capitol attack.
Facebook’s rethinking of how to treat political speech has implications not only for American politics but also for world leaders such as President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who have been active on the platform.
Yet Facebook’s moves, which create a more specific framework for how it handles political figures, are unlikely to satisfy its detractors and may reinforce what some see as the company’s disproportionate power over online speech.
“There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing president from its platform, and many others who believe Mr. Trump should have immediately been banned for life.” Mr. Clegg said. “We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide — but our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible.”
He said the moves were a response to criticism that the company had not provided sufficient insight into its decision-making, and he said Facebook was putting into place a system of protocols and sanctions to be applied in exceptional cases such as Mr. Trump’s.
For Mr. Trump, who has been permanently barred on Twitter, Facebook’s action means he will be muted from the mainstream platforms during at least the 2022 midterm election cycle. Mr. Trump, who before the bans used social media as a megaphone to reach his tens of millions of followers, has found it more difficult to communicate with those supporters — and loom even larger over the Republican primary field. He started a blog called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” about a month ago but shut it down this week after it gained little traction.”
This is a good move by Facebook. Trump used its platform to promote an insurrection and should be held accountable.