Facebook has revisited Donald Trump's "indefinite" suspension following a recommendation from the Oversight Board. The company said that Trump's suspension should last two years, which would potentially allow him to return to the social network in time to run for president again in 2024.
"Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols," Facebook's VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a blog post. "We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year."
After the two-year period is up, Clegg said Facebook would "evaluate" the "risk to public safety" to determine if the suspension should be extended or lifted. He added that additional scrutiny would be applied to Trump’s account when it is restored, and that he could still be permanently banned from the platform for future behavior. “When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts,” he wrote.
When the suspension is eventually lifted, Mr Trump’s account will be subject to new enhanced penalties if he violates our policies, up to and including permanent removal of his accounts.— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) June 4, 2021
Last month, the Oversight Board said that Facebook was justified in suspending Trump, but that by imposing an “indefinite” suspension the company was failing to follow its own rules. The board also accused Facebook of trying to “avoid its responsibilities.”
Now, Facebook says it will have a new set of “heightened penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and ongoing violence.” Facebook is also publishing new details about its "strike system" and "newsworthiness" policies in response to the Oversight Board's recommendations. Included in these updated guidelines is a policy to apply longer suspensions or permanent bans when an influential user repeat offends.
Still, Facebook made clear that it’s a matter of when — not if — Trump’s Facebook access would be restored. Assuming the suspension isn’t significantly extended, the two-year timeframe would also give Trump plenty of time to restart another campaign. The former president and his campaign staff have said that the social network, where they spent millions in advertising, was crucial to Trump’s success in 2016. In a statement, the former president called Facebook’s decision an “insult” to his voters.
Facebook's handling of the Oversight Board's recommendations in the Trump case has been viewed as the first major test of the company's attempt to self-regulate. In his latest post, Clegg reiterated that company is still seeking "thoughtful regulation in this space."
The Oversight Board, which said last month that some of its members thought Trump should be permanently removed from Facebook, didn't immediately weigh in on the substance of Facebook's updates. The group later said it was "encouraged" by Facebook's actions and that it was "now assessing Facebook’s response to our recommendations."
Update 6/4 3:37PM ET: Added statement from Facebook's Oversight Board.