UPDATED, with Trump statements: Facebook said on Friday that Donald Trump would be suspended until at least January 7, 2023, concluding that the former president’s actions warranted “the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols.”
“We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year,” Nick Clegg, the company’s VP of global affairs, said in a blog post.
The company’s Oversight Board last month upheld Trump’s suspension from the platform, but found fault with Facebook for imposing an “indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” They recommended that Facebook review its decision.
“We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts,” Clegg wrote. “Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols.”
The former president blasted Facebook’s decision. In a statement, he said that it was “an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”
He also went after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!”
Trump has sought alternative platforms, like a blog called “From the Office of Donald Trump.” But that effort was scuttled after less than a month after it failed to gain traction.
News networks quickly seized on Facebook’s announcement.
On MSNBC, NBC News’ Ben Collins said that “the blog he put up just weeks ago is already down, because Trump realized no one was reading his blog posts. .. He has decimated his support in terms of social media, and that’s because he can’t use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It limits the reach of your posts. He can still say whatever he wants on the Internet, but it you’re not allowed to do it on Facebook, you’re just not going to reach that many people.”
While Trump and his supporters blasted the moves of social media giants to ban him from their platforms, Facebook’s suspension was motivated by his posts during the Capitol insurrection. When it initially suspended Trump, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said that the then-president was “fanning the flames of his supporters who moved to overturn the election outcome.”
Clegg wrote that at the end of the two-year period they will consult with experts to assess whether “the risk to public safety has receded.
“We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded,” Clegg wrote.
If Trump’s suspension is lifted, he wrote, “there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.”
As he did in his response to Facebook, Trump has continued to make unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him, and reportedly even has embraced the idea that he will be reinstated. His supporters are conducting an audit of election results in Arizona, although the state elections officials and others say that it is being conducted without proper protocols and safeguards. Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said in December that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have changed the election outcome, while Trump’s campaign and supporters lost dozens of election challenges in court.
Clegg also addressed Facebook’s policy to allow posts that may violate their community standards as they meet a “newsworthiness” standard. He wrote that “when we assess content for newsworthiness, we will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else. Instead, we will simply apply our newsworthiness balancing test in the same way to all content, measuring whether the public interest value of the content outweighs the potential risk of harm by leaving it up.”