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Facebook oversight board upholds Trump ban

Facebook Inc’s (NASDAQ:FB) decision to ban former US President Donald Trump from its platforms following riots at the US Capitol in January has been upheld by the social network’s independent oversight board.

However, while the board upheld the company’s decision to ban Trump from both its Facebook and Instagram platforms, it said it was “not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension”.

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“It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored”, the board said in its decision, adding that in taking the decision Facebook “did not follow clear, published procedure” and that indefinite bans were not described in the group’s content policies.

“In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities. The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty”, it added.

The decision means Facebook now has six months to issue an appropriate penalty for Trump which the board said must be consistent with its rules.

The board also recommended that in the future Facebook escalate political content from high profile figures more quickly to monitoring staff, as well as review what the board said was “[Facebook’s] potential contribution to the narrative of electoral fraud and the exacerbated tensions that culminated in the violence in the United States on January 6”.

This recommendation may form a sting in the tail for Facebook, which is currently facing increased pressure from politicians and regulators over its influence on social and political discourse as well as the ability of its platform to spread misinformation widely and quickly without adequate oversight.

Shares in Facebook were flat at US$318.51 in mid-morning trading in New York on Wednesday.

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