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Facebook Oversight Board upholds Trump suspension, but asks Facebook to set time limit

Posted on 7 May 2021

In its long awaited decision on Facebook's indefinite suspension of Donald Trump, the Oversight Board has found that Facebook's actions were justified, as Mr Trump had "created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions".

Nonetheless, the Oversight Board also found that "it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an indefinite suspension". The decision stated that "it is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored" and that "in applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the [Oversight] Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities".

The Oversight Board has sent the case back to Facebook, insisting that "Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty… within six months…" While the decision is not legally binding on Facebook, they have committed to "consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate."

Commenting on the decision, Harry Eccles-Williams, a Managing Associate in Mishcon de Reya's Reputation Protection Department, said "This might look like an endorsement of Facebook's decision, but in reality it is a scathing indictment of their moderation processes, and has put the decision on Trump back in their court. It is hard to imagine that this is a decision that they will relish taking."

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