Facebook was justified in banning then-President Donald Trump from its platform after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol but will need to reassess how long the ban will remain in effect, the social network’s quasi-independent Oversight Board said Wednesday.
The decision to uphold the ban is a blow to Trump’s hopes to post again to Facebook or Instagram any time soon, but it opens the door to him eventually returning to the platforms.
Facebook created the Oversight Board last year as a kind of “supreme court” to hear appeals from users like Trump who have had their posts removed or who want to challenge other sensitive or contentious moderation decisions. The decisions of the 20-member globe-spanning board are not binding, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to abide by what it says.
“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” the board said in its decision.
The board said that Trump “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” by maintaining a narrative that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.
Its decision focused on two Trump posts from Jan. 6, both praising people involved in the Capitol attack: one post telling the rioters “We love you. You’re very special” and another calling them “great patriots” and saying “remember this day forever.”
“At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions,” the board said.
The oversight board said, though, it was not appropriate for Facebook to vary from its normal penalties when it made the ban indefinite. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing posts, imposing a limited suspension or permanently disabling an account, the board said.
“As Facebook suspended Mr. Trump’s accounts ‘indefinitely,’ the company must reassess this penalty,” the board said.