Oversight Board response to Meta’s announcement on former President Trump
Today Meta made an important announcement stemming from a case the Board reviewed about whether or not the company was correct in its decision on January 7, 2021 to restrict then-President Trump's access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account.
As part of the Board’s decision, the Board “assessed Mr. Trump's Facebook and Instagram posts and off-platform comments.” The Board agreed that Mr. Trump had violated the platform's policies by praising the people who were rioting in the Capitol at the time, but concluded that the "indefinite" length of the suspension was in violation of the rules and needed to be revisited. In response to the Board’s decision on May 5, 2021, Meta said it would impose a two year suspension and would “assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.” Today Meta has announced that it believes it has.
Earlier this month Meta briefed the Board leadership on the process it was using to come to an updated decision. Yesterday Meta informed us that it had reached that decision, telling us that it planned to reinstate Mr. Trump. Today’s decision to reinstate Mr. Trump on Meta’s platforms sat with Meta alone — the Board did not have a role in the decision.
Meta has made significant progress on implementing necessary and proportionate penalties across a range of violation severities. Additionally, the Board notes that Meta introduced an additional set of measures to limit the distribution of content which does not violate the Community Standards, but still poses a risk of offline harm. The Board urges Meta to be transparent in the use of these measures.
The Board welcomes that Meta has followed the Board’s recommendations to introduce a crisis policy protocol in order to improve Meta’s policy response to crises, and to undertake an assessment about the current security environment. However, the Board calls on Meta to provide additional details of its assessment so that the Board can review the implementation of the Board’s decision and recommendations in this case, to define varying violation severities by public figures in the context of civil unrest, and to articulate the way that the policy on public figure violations in the context of civil unrest relates to the crisis policy protocol. Nonetheless, the detailed policies and “guardrails” Meta outlined today are important, and the Board notes that many were originally announced in response to the Board’s recommendations in 2021.
As part of the Board’s ongoing work on tracking Meta’s implementation of the Board’s recommendations across all decisions, the Board will publish a fuller analysis of this case in a future quarterly transparency report. The Board will also continue to monitor Meta’s application of its civil unrest in relation to public figures policy outside of the United States.
Today’s decision by Meta is a pivotal moment in the debate over the best way to handle harmful content posted by politicians on social media. As Meta wrote, there are arguments on both sides of the debate over where to draw the line on what content should be allowed online. Independent oversight of decisions related to speech on social media platforms is why the Board was set up — to ensure that companies act in a transparent and accountable manner.