Oversight Board Accepts Case on Former US President Trump's Indefinite Suspension from Facebook and Instagram

Today the Oversight Board accepted a case referral from Facebook to examine their decision to indefinitely suspend former US President Donald Trump’s access to post content on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has also requested policy recommendations from the Board on suspensions when the user is a political leader.

Facebook’s decision to suspend Mr. Trump’s access to post on Facebook and Instagram on January 7, 2021, has driven intense global interest. The Oversight Board has been closely following events in the United States and Facebook’s response to them, and the Board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company’s decision.

A decision by the Board on this case will be binding on Facebook, and determine whether Mr. Trump’s suspension from access to Facebook and Instagram for an indefinite amount of time is overturned. Facebook has committed not to restore access to its platforms unless directed by a decision of the Oversight Board. Facebook must consider any accompanying policy recommendations from the Board, and publicly respond to them.

The Oversight Board launched in late 2020 to address exactly the sort of highly consequential issues raised by this case. The Board was created to provide a critical independent check on Facebook’s approach to the most challenging content issues, which have enormous implications for global human rights and free expression. Our Members are leaders in fields including human rights, law, journalism and technology, come from many different communities, and represent a wide range of views and beliefs. We believe that our Members, working through a strong and independent oversight process, can ensure decisions are made in a more principled and transparent way than what Facebook can deliver alone. This is what the Board is committed to delivering in this case.

How will the Oversight Board decide this case?

Over the coming days, the case will be assigned to a five-Member case review panel in accordance with our Bylaws and Rulebook. After the panel reaches a decision, its findings are shared with the entire Board. Sign-off by a majority of the Board is required for a case decision to be issued.

Members will decide whether the content involved in this case violated Facebook’s Community Standards and values. They will also consider whether Facebook’s removal of the content respected international human rights standards, including on freedom of expression and other human rights.

Mr. Trump, through his designated page administrators, will have the ability to submit a user statement to the Board explaining why he believes Facebook’s content moderation decisions should be overturned. Facebook will also share contextual information and a detailed explanation for their existing content decisions in this case. The Board will also open a process for all interested individuals and organizations to submit public comments to share any insights and perspectives with the Board that they believe will assist with making a decision.

The Board aims to move as promptly as possible while ensuring that the review process is thorough and principled. The Board’s Bylaws set an outer limit of 90 days as the time within which it must make a decision. As with all our cases, the Board is committed to being transparent about our work, and the case decision will be published on the Board's website. The decision will present the key information used by the panel to reach a decision, along with an explanation on how the panel reached its final conclusions.

Following publication, Facebook will have up to seven days to implement the case decision. Facebook must also respond publicly to any policy recommendations the Board has made within its decision within 30 days.

You can learn more about the Board’s appeal process here.

What comes next

The Board announced our first cases in December 2020, and will begin publishing decisions on cases next week. These cases relate to highly significant issues including hate speech, misinformation, and incitement to violence. We will also shortly announce the next round of cases selected for review by the Board.

The Board expects to begin accepting public comments on this case next week. You can sign up here to receive alerts on when new cases have been posted to the website and are open for comment.

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