Despite not fully cooperating with its own Oversight Board, Facebook has maintained the ban of former US President Donald Trump, imposed during a violent insurrection at the US capital in January this year. During the riot the defeated candidate’s supporters threatened to murder the Vice President, Michael Pence. 

However, Facebook’s Oversight Board also held open the possibility of lifting the ban in six months’ time, coincidentally just in time for the lucrative mid-term election advertising cycle.

In Section 6 of the ruling: Facebook’s explanation of its decision, the Oversight Board notes, “In this case, the Board asked Facebook 46 questions, and Facebook declined to answer seven entirely, and two partially. ”

It says the questions that Facebook did not answer included questions about how Facebook’s news feed and other features impacted the visibility of Mr. Trump’s content; whether Facebook has researched, or plans to research, those design decisions in relation to the events of January 6, 2021; and information about violating content from followers of Mr. Trump’s accounts.

“The Board also asked questions related to the suspension of other political figures and removal of other content; whether Facebook had been contacted by political officeholders or their staff about the suspension of Mr. Trump’s accounts; and whether account suspension or deletion impacts the ability of advertisers to target the accounts of followers.”

Facebook told the body that Zuckerberg himself bragged was “Facebook’s Supreme Court”  this information “was not reasonably required for decision-making in accordance with the intent of the Charter; was not technically feasible to provide; was covered by attorney/client privilege; and/or could not or should not be provided because of legal, privacy, safety, or data protection concerns.”

Backstory:

Five people died around the event, including a policeman who suffered a stroke hours after Trump supporters allegedly sprayed him with mace.

The Washington chief medical examiner ruled he died of natural causes. Two Trump supporters, Julian Khater and George Tanios, were charged with assault.

The defeated President, who was impeached for the second time for his behaviour in January, is also banned from other social networks — most famously Twitter, where he had 88.7 million followers (at least half of whom were real humans).

Unlike the Facebook ban, Twitter’s action is permanent. Other social platforms also banned or suspended Trump at the time, including Instagram (also owned by Facebook), YouTube (owned by Google), Snapchat, and Twitch.

Facebook’s Oversight Board found that the permanency of the ban on Trump violated its rules, which didn’t allow for such a ban. However, it also found the ban was justified in the circumstances and recommended it continue for six months while Facebook’s terms and conditions are re-evaluated.

Happily for Facebook shareholders, of whom CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the largest, the company will be in a position to lift the ban at that time.

Nine out of the top ten posts on Facebook in the USA yesterday were made by Trump supporters, according to tracking services.

The formation of the Facebook Oversight Board was approved in late 2018 after a significant period of criticism of Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, arguments over free speech, and in an environment of ongoing criticisms of the company’s failure to police hate speech on its platform.

Prior to the attempt to overturn the US elections by Trump and his supporters both inside and outside of Congress, the Board had made a number of rulings on issues as varied as;

  • Displaying females nipples as part of a breast cancer post (restored),
  • Misinformation about hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID (restored),
  • And the misattribution of a quote to Joseph Goebbels (restored).

Following the news this morning that the ban remains in place, the former President issued a statement condemning the ruling from Facebook.

Despite vituperative claims to the contrary, the Facebook ban has done little to lessen the voices of Trump’s supporters.

Those supporters, such as Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, News Corporation identity Sean Hannity, and  News Corporation-owned Fox News, regularly dominate the most popular posts on the site in the US, according to monitoring services.

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