Donald Trump’s Facebook ban upheld by oversight board – but he could be reinstated in months

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President.

Facebook’s decision to ban Donald Trump has been upheld by the company’s independent oversight board.

The social media company banned the former president of the United States indefinitely in January after he said rioters who stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC were “great patriots” and described them as “special”.

The matter was subsequently referred to Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent panel that is often referred to as the social media company’s “Supreme Court”.

The Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s decision to remove Trump from the platform in a ruling on Wednesday (5 May) – however, it also said it was inappropriate to impose an indefinite suspension.

The board noted that when its terms of use are violated, the social media company can either remove the violating content or it can suspend the user or organisation for a specific period of time. Alternatively, Facebook can opt to permanently ban the offending user.

In Trump’s case, Facebook imposed an “indefinite” suspension – a decision that is not in line with its treatment of other users, the Oversight Board said.

The independent panel instructed Facebook to “review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response” within six months, meaning the social media company must now decide to reinstate Trump’s account or ban him for life.

The board agreed that Donald Trump’s Facebook posts about the Capitol riots “severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards” as the social media company does not allow praise or support of violence.

“The board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible,” the Oversight Board wrote in its ruling.

“At the time of Mr Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for this involved in the riots legitimised their violent actions.”

Facebook accused of ‘avoiding its responsibilities’ with ‘indefinite’ ban on Donald Trump

The Oversight Board said that, given the seriousness of Trump’s actions and his wide reach, it was appropriate to ban Donald Trump from Facebook.

“It is Facebook’s role to create necessary and proportionate penalties that respond to severe violations of its content policies,” the independent panel wrote.

“The Board’s role is to ensure that Facebook’s rules and processes are consistent with its content policies, its values and its human rights commitments.

“In applying a vague, standardises penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebooks seeks to avoid its responsibilities. The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.”

The board also issued a series of recommendations to Facebook in which it urged the platform to undertake a “comprehensive review” of its “potential contribution” to the narrative pushed by Trump and his aides that the election was stolen through fraudulent means.

“This should be an open reflection on the design and policy choices that Facebook has made that may allow its platform to be abused,” the board wrote.

Trump was banned from Facebook and Twitter in January following the Capitol riots, which resulted in the deaths of five people.

The then-president was widely condemned for having baselessly claimed that Joe Biden had stolen the presidential election and encouraging his followers to march to the Capitol ahead of the riots.