SAN FRANCISCO – Former U.S. President Donald Trump will not return to Facebook, for now.
The social media network’s Oversight Board voted on Wednesday to uphold the suspension issued four months ago for inciting violence that led to the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
While upholding the suspension, it also faulted Facebook for the way it made the decision.
The board said the ongoing risk of serious violence justified Facebook’s suspension at the time, but said it “was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘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 Oversight Board writes.
The board said Facebook was seeking to avoid its responsibilities by applying “a vague, standardless penalty” and then referring the case to the board to resolve.
“Indefinite penalties of this sort do not pass the international smell test,” oversight board co-chair Michael McConnell said in a conference call with reporters. “We are not cops, reigning over the realm of social media.”
The board agreed with Facebook that two of Trump’s Jan. 6 posts “severely violated” the content standards of both Facebook and Instagram. It noted language used in both of the posts violated Facebook’s rules which prohibit “praise or support of people who engaged in violence.”
It further added that Trump “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” through his messaging and repeated calls for action in the lead up to the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.
The board has given Facebook six months to reexamine “the arbitrary penalty” first imposed in January, and decide on an “appropriate” one.
“This penalty must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm. It must also be consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate,” the Oversight Board writes.
The suspension also applied to Instagram, which is owned by the same company as Facebook.
Twitter has already permanently suspended Trump’s account.
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to show the board didn’t uphold a permanent ban. The board is giving Facebook six months to wrap up its investigation on a potentially permanent ban.
More to come.