On Wednesday, the Facebook-created and Facebook-funded Oversight Board ruled that the platform should continue its suspension of Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Facebook had suspended these accounts indefinitely following his use of the platforms as a megaphone for spreading hateful rhetoric and election disinformation — inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Two weeks following the insurrection, Facebook referred the Trump decision to the Oversight Board for a binding decision. Its case description made no mention of the former president’s history of inciting racist violence and active potential to catalyze further harm to communities of color, religious minorities, and other groups confronting oppression.
The Oversight Board has only narrow authority to review individual pieces of content that Facebook removes and then deems “appealable.” The board renders decisions based on limited information. Operating under its limited jurisdiction, the board issued a precedent-setting verdict. In addition, the board told Facebook that it must complete its review of its decision to suspend Trump within six months of today's date.
Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González, who co-founded the Change the Terms coalition, made the following statement:
“While today’s Oversight Board decision to uphold Donald Trump’s suspension from Facebook is welcome, it’s a temporary Band-Aid that obscures a much larger problem: the greed-driven incentives that compel Facebook to trade public safety for corporate profit. Today’s ruling doesn’t end Facebook’s practice of allowing political leaders to break the rules, sow violence and undermine democracies. The company’s hate-and-lie-for-profit business model prevents it from taking any meaningful action against the scores of white supremacists who still use its services. The Oversight Board cannot be trusted to issue independent decisions in future cases as it’s part of the same toxic apparatus.
“If the board had lifted Trump’s suspension on Facebook and Instagram, the ex-president could be expected to continue his pattern of inciting hate against Black and Brown people, Asian Americans, immigrants, Muslim Americans, women, and many other groups. Hate and lies spread by Trump gave rise to deadly attacks at the U.S. Capitol, assaults on the El Paso and Charlottesville communities, and record levels of hate crimes. Facebook and other platforms must not allow any user to weaponize social media and endanger lives.
“We implore Facebook to stop the sham of its Oversight Board and take immediate steps to cease its poisonous business model. It must invest in stronger policies and enforcement mechanisms to stop the multilingual spread of hate and disinformation on its platforms across the world. Until global governmental intervention reins in Facebook, the company will continue to profit off of inflammatory political rhetoric, advertising and disinformation that targets diverse communities and undermines democracies."
Research from Media Matters for America found that roughly one-quarter of Trump’s 6,081 Facebook posts in 2020 contained extremist rhetoric or misinformation, which was shared and liked more than 927 million times. Research from Zignal Labs found that election misinformation declined by 73 percent the week that Trump was deplatformed.
Click here to read public comments to Facebook from Free Press and the Change the Terms coalition. These comments document Facebook harms and outline responsible next steps the company must take to protect its users and our democracy.