After all of the controversy and outrage surrounding the decision to more-or-less totally ban former president Donald Trump from almost every large and mainstream social media platform, Facebook has announced that it has sent its decision to suspend Trump’s account to an independent oversight board for review.
What Is This Oversight Board?
The Oversight Board is a recently created body that describes its purpose on its website as helping “Facebook answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online: what to take down, what to leave up, and why.”
Facebook says that the Oversight Board is a genuinely independent body and that it is not merely “a simple extension of Facebook’s existing content review process.” It appears to technically have the power to reverse Facebook’s internal decisions about which content to either remove or keep up on its site. It consists of a group of international law professors, journalists, human rights experts and government policy specialists from a number of different countries.
Since Facebook actually created the board, the extent to which its decisions are genuinely independent of Facebook is open to doubt. It may well be that the board simply exists to rubber stamp Facebook’s previous decisions while providing an illusory veneer of impartiality.
Facebook decided to suspend Donald Trump’s account after it was alleged that he incited a riot on Jan. 6 at Capitol Hill. Investigations of that day’s timeline conducted by the New York Times have cast serious doubt upon those accusations, and even the FBI has admitted that the riot was coordinated and planned well in advance. Antifa and BLM members are also known to have infiltrated crowds of Trump supporters and instigated violence.
What Happens While the Board Deliberates?
While the board deliberates, Trump’s account will remain suspended. The board has up to 90 days to review the case and decide whether Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump was truly made in proper accordance with its policies. Facebook has not asked the board for an expedited review of the case, but a spokesman for the new organization says that it will reach a decision well before the 90-day deadline.
Facebook has also asked the board to provide it with guidelines on when it may or should block political leaders’ accounts. These guidelines, if issued, will not be binding.
“I’m very confident of our case,” said Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Head of Global Affairs. Clegg told Reuters, “I’m very confident that any reasonable person looking at the circumstances in which we took that decision and looking at our existing policies will agree.”