After the Capitol Riot on Jan. 6, 2021 that left five people dead on-site and one officer who committed suicide, Facebook reportedly suspended former President Donald Trump’s account for two weeks and removed all content mentioning “Stop the Steal.” Now that he’s left the White House the morning of Inauguration Day, when current President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden moved in, Facebook’s Oversight Board is re-evaluating whether Trump’s social media presence should be gone for good, too.
For some, even a temporary Trump ban may have been a surprising move for founder Mark Zuckerberg to make.
“I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy,” Zuckerberg said at Georgetown University on Oct. 17. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.”
The one time that Facebook did crack down on Trump was not due to the messaging but due to a misleading Census ad. According to a BBC report, a Trump Make America Great Again Committee placed an ad declaring the link in the post to be the “Official 2020 Congressional District Census.” People believed it was from the U.S. Census Bureau and filled it out, but it redirected to a fundraising campaign.
But comments, videos, memes and links that may be offensive to others—and walk the line of Facebook’s ethics violations on hate speech—usually got a free pass on the social media platform. That hasn’t stopped Facebook from shutting down the main and local pages of left-wing groups like Britain’s Socialist Workers Party (SWP). In a press release today, their accounts were shut down for the second time. (The first time was said to be in “error.”)
Considering the social media platform, with 2.7 billion active users, has had more of an open-arm approach to conservative news after the Gizmodo uproar, this may come as no surprise. However, Facebook does appear to be taking more steps to balance the platform.
One day before Biden was sworn into office, Roy L. Austin, Jr., a nationally renowned civil rights attorney and advocate, took on the role of VP of Civil Rights and Deputy General Counsel. He will be based in Washington, DC, and will establish Facebook’s new civil rights organization.
However, he is not currently on the independent board that will decide Trump’s Facebook fate. There are, however, a diverse group of women and men on the Facebook Oversight Board from various parts of the world who will make the final decision. Self-identified by Facebook News as the “the first body of its kind in the world,” this is an expert-led independent organization with the power to impose binding decisions on a private social media company.”
When the final decision is made, it will be posted on the Facebook Oversight Board’s official site.