Facebook’s supervisory board will announce on Wednesday whether Donald Trump will be allowed to return to the platform, a move that will have major implications for the political future of the former president and the Republican Party.
The social media platform indefinitely suspended Trump’s account four months ago over fears it would not spark further violence and unrest following the assault on Capitol Hill by a crowd of supporters of the 45th President on January 6. .
“We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue using our service during this time are just too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time.
Later in January, Facebook asked its supervisory board – a Supreme Court-like body first appointed in 2020 that hears user appeals over its content moderation decisions – to review the ban, as well as to provide more general recommendations on how the platform should handle the rule. disruptive content from world leaders.
His landmark decision, which is binding, is expected around 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
The council’s conclusion will dictate whether Trump, once an obsessive social media user with more than 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram, will be able to regain access to a powerful channel to energize his followers and reap funds. The former president did not rule out running for the White House again in 2024.
It will also be the biggest test to date of Facebook’s 20-member supervisory board, made up of academics, civil rights groups and experts from all political backgrounds. The board, funded by Facebook but independent of the company, will have the final say on moderation decisions at a time of bipartisan support for tighter regulation of big tech in the United States.
Any decision risks sowing discord. Civil rights groups have urged Facebook to ban the former president permanently, arguing the social media platform has bent its own rules to accommodate him and appease Republicans. Others have argued that Facebook’s treatment of Trump amounts to censorship and a dangerous curb on free speech, and exemplifies the heavy power the company has amassed.
Facebook rival Twitter banned Trump permanently in January. Google’s YouTube suspended the former chairman of the video platform, but chief executive Susan Wojcicki said it would lift the freeze once “the risk of violence subsides.”
The former president has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the White House in late January and snubbed Joe Biden’s nomination. He made few public appearances and only participated in a few interviews, mostly with Fox News.
He continued to repeat some of the unproven allegations of voter fraud that contributed to his bans. He released several statements on Monday only through his Save America political action committee, including: “The fraudulent presidential election of 2020 will, from this day forward, be known as THE BIG LIE!” Trump also touted the possibility of starting his own social network.
Facebook watchdog: who they are and what they do
What is the supervisory board?
Facebook’s supervisory board was created to “review a number of highly iconic content moderation decisions” and determine whether these were “made in accordance with Facebook’s stated values and policies.” It is funded by a $ 130 million trust created by Facebook and launched last year.
Users can appeal to the board against content deletions or request a review of content that they believe has been allowed to remain on the platform. Facebook can also recommend cases – which happened in the Trump scenario.
The board can also offer general policy recommendations to Facebook, although the social media company is not obligated to follow them.
Who are they?
The council is made up of 20 academics, human rights and freedom of expression experts, and journalists who have been selected by Facebook but who operate independently. Members include former editor of The Guardian newspaper Alan Rusbridger, Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman and former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
An anonymous sub-selection of board members is tasked with making an initial decision on a case, which a majority of the board must agree to.
What will they decide on Wednesday?
The board will announce whether it will uphold Trump’s suspension. He was also asked to give advice on how to approach the suspension of world leaders in general, at a time when figures such as Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines have done so. under scrutiny for their use of social media.
The board’s statutes provide for a 90-day window to come to a conclusion on a case and an additional week for Facebook to take action. The Trump case decision was delayed after the board received some 9,000 responses to its call for comment. Trump also submitted a “user statement” to the board explaining why he thinks the decision should be overturned.