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Facebook Oversight Board upholds Trump ban but demands six-month review

Credit: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Facebook's independent Oversight Board upheld the platform's ban on former President Donald Trump — but is requiring a review of ban policies and procedures leaving the door open for a return in the future.

The board ruled Wednesday to keep the January decision to suspend Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts in place. However, the board also ruled that Facebook's suspension was not clear enough and that its indefinite timeframe "was not appropriate."

Facebook's ban was justified because there was a "clear, immediate risk of harm" during the Jan. 6 unrest at the U.S. Capitol, the board said. Through his words and actions, Trump "created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible," it added.

However, the board took issue with the lack of clarity surrounding the ban. It said that Facebook did not follow a "clear, published procedure" when it banned the president.

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

It went on to say that Facebook should apply the same rules to all users and explain those rules clearly. However, it did add that context should be taken into account when applying bans — including whether posts are made by "influential users" or if there's a need for urgent action to avoid "signifiant harm."

The board requested that Facebook review the ban within six months to find a "proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform."

In a blog post responding to the board's decision, Facebook said it would consider the ruling and determine an action that lines up with the board's report.

"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," it wrote.

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