Facebook’s oversight board has upheld the decision to ban Donald Trump from their platform in the wake of the 2020 US election – and the violence in Washington DC that followed.
But in a statement the body said the social network should not have imposed an “indeterminate and standardless penalty of an indefinite suspension”.
And they said the network had sought to “avoid its responsibilities” by “applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve.”
And they told bosses to review the decision and come up with a “proportionate response” – that is consistent with the rules for all users – within six months.
On a call following the publication of the decision, the Board’s co-chair Michael McConnell said: “Facebook must make its decision and be held accountable for what it decides.”
Facebook indefinitely blocked Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts over concerns of further violent unrest following the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of the former President in January.
At the time of the suspension, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that “the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
The company later referred the case to its recently established board, which includes academics, lawyers and rights activists, to decide whether to uphold the ban or restore Trump.
The board’s decision does not say whether they believe President Trump should have been permanently banned, or whether a time limit should have been applied to the suspension.
But they’ve given Facebook six months to pick one, and justify it.
They wrote: “…it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.
“Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
They added: “The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.
“Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision.
“The Board also made policy recommendations for Facebook to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression.”
President Trump was permanently banned from Twitter, where he had more than 88 million followers.
Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader, who is now Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications, said the network would “consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate”.
But in the meantime, the ex-President will remain suspended.
“As we stated in January, we believe our decision was necessary and right, and we’re pleased the board has recognized that the unprecedented circumstances justified the exceptional measure we took,” he said.
“However, while the board has not required Facebook to immediately restore Mr. Trump’s accounts, it has not specified the appropriate duration of the penalty.
“Instead, the board criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension, calling it an “indeterminate and standardless penalty,” and insisted we review our response.
He added: “We thank the board for the care and attention it gave this case.”