Meta announced that the suspension of former president Trump from Facebook and Instagram will be lifted within a few weeks, with “guardrails” in place to discourage repeat offenses.
2021 Suspension of Trump
Meta indefinitely suspended the account of then-president Trump after he praised the people who engaged in anti-government violence that ended in several deaths.
The suspension was reviewed by the Meta Oversight Board who concluded that the indefinite suspension was inconsistent with rules in place for dealing with policy violations.
“…it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.
The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”
Facebook responded to the board that the suspension will last for two years beginning on January 7, 2021 after which the suspension would be reconsidered.
The indefinite suspension remained in place until the announcement that it will be lifted in the weeks following January 25, 2022, just over two years after the suspension.
Why the Suspension of Trump was Lifted
The review of the suspension was timed for two years after the imposition of the original suspension on January 7, 2021. This was by agreement with the Oversight Board.
Meta undertook a review of whether Trump continued to pose a risk to public safety and decided that enough had changed to lower the risk.
The explanation of the decision indicated that multiple factors were considered:
“To assess whether the serious risk to public safety that existed in January 2021 has sufficiently receded, we have evaluated the current environment according to our Crisis Policy Protocol, which included looking at the conduct of the US 2022 midterm elections, and expert assessments on the current security environment.
Our determination is that the risk has sufficiently receded, and that we should therefore adhere to the two-year timeline we set out.
As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”
Facebook Public Figure Penalty Guardrails
Meta published updated policies, Restricting accounts by public figures during civil unrest, that describe the new protocols for dealing with public figures who violate Meta guidelines.
The updated rules apply to both Facebook and Instagram.
The new policies outline tiered penalties increasing in severity depending on the content violations.
Meta explained that the goal of the penalties were to deter violations of their policies.
The penalties last from one to thirty days to as long as two years for especially egregious violations.
Three factors will be considered to determine the severity of the penalty:
- “The severity of the violation and the public figure’s history on Facebook or Instagram, including current and past violations.
- The public figure’s potential influence over, and relationship to, the individuals engaged in violence.
- The severity of the violence and any related physical harm.”
Public figures who return after a suspension will face heightened penalties, including disabling the account of any public figure that fails to respond to repeated warnings.
Meta’s rules targets QAnon content and outlines specific measures they will take that will limit the reach of penalized public figures.
That means anyone who is following the restricted account of a public figure will not see content posted to those accounts, plus the removal of reshare buttons.
“Our updated protocol also addresses content that does not violate our Community Standards but that contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.
We may limit the distribution of such posts, and for repeated instances, may temporarily restrict access to our advertising tools.
This step would mean that content would remain visible on Mr. Trump’s account but would not be distributed in people’s Feeds, even if they follow Mr. Trump.
We may also remove the reshare button from such posts, and may stop them being recommended or run as ads.”
Response to Reinstatement of Trump
Facebook’s announcement stated that they expect to be criticized but that the decision was guided by guidelines set down by the Oversight Board.
The response on social media was predictably passionate, with congressman Adam Schiff characterizing the reinstatement as Facebook having “caved.”
Others accused Facebook of having no rules or procedures even though Meta’s decision was based on rules and procedures.
Many of the top tweets commenting on the Trump reinstatement commented that Facebook’s decision was based on greed while others lamented the lack of consequences from Trump’s action, even though he was punished with a two year suspension.
Read Meta’s Announcement:
Ending Suspension of Trump’s Accounts With New Guardrails to Deter Repeat Offenses
Featured image by Shutterstock/Evan El-Amin