One silver lining to yet another depressing year in these United States of America is that Donald Trump hasn’t been able to make it worse by broadcasting his thoughts to millions of followers on Facebook or Instagram.
It’s going to stay that way — for now, at least.
An oversight board assembled by the social media giant ruled on Wednesday to uphold the company’s suspension of the former president, which was handed down a day after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in January. Despite the board’s decision to uphold the posting ban, it clarified that it is “not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.”
“It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored,” the board wrote in its decision, noting that Facebook must complete a review of the matter within the next six months.
Facebook’s prolonged, half-measure response to Trump’s repeated violations of their policy contrasts sharply with how Twitter handled the situation. Trump’s favorite social media platform simply banned him for good in the wake of the insurrection. “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the company wrote at the time.
This seemed to be a pretty reasonable way for a company to handle someone co-opting its platform to spread disinformation to hundreds of millions of people, leading to — among many, many other disastrous outcomes — an insurrection aimed at overturning a legitimate election.
Facebook didn’t think so, and instead opted to take a wait-and-see approach, committing to suspend Trump for “at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” The suspension came after Trump praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol to his combined 60 millions followers on both Facebook and Instagram. Facebook imposed a 24-hour block on Trump’s accounts, before deciding to suspend him indefinitely a day later. This was all well and good, the board determined, also citing Trump’s previous false claims about the 2020 election being stolen as a relevant pretext for the suspension.
The company’s mind-numbing introspection will now drag on for at least another six months as it scrutinizes the implications of an indefinite suspension for someone who, if allowed back on the platform, would immediately resume spreading disinformation.
Trump has yet to respond to the board’s decision to uphold the suspension, but he may have seen it coming. On Tuesday, the former president launched his own “communications” platform, featuring a series of tweet-like missives railing against unfaithful Republicans and the “FRAUDULENT” election. Next to the makeshift feed sits, of course, a link to contribute money.