Facebook announced Friday it would uphold its ban against former president Donald Trump — imposed shortly after the January 6 Capitol riot — for two years, until at least January 2023.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension,” Facebook is “suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7th this year,” the company said in a statement.
“At the end of this period, 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,” the statement adds.
In Response to Oversight Board, Trump Suspended for Two Years; Will Only Be Reinstated if Conditions Permit https://t.co/0n1pWwv9kM
— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) June 4, 2021
Once the suspension is lifted “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,” the statement adds.
The announcement comes after the Facebook Oversight Board upheld Trump’s suspension last month but criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension, saying that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”
On January 7, one day after the Capitol riot, the company kicked Trump off of Facebook and Instagram, which it owns. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that Trump was suspended for using the platform “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” The risk of leaving him on Facebook, Zuckerberg said then, was “simply too great.”
Trump had a combined 56 million followers across Facebook and Instagram when he was banned.
“We know that any penalty we apply — or choose not to apply — will be controversial,” Facebook said in a statement on Friday. “There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing President from its platform, and many others who believe Mr. Trump should have immediately been banned for life.”
It continued: “We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide — but our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible, in keeping with the instruction given to us by the Oversight Board.”
The decision marks a shift in the company’s rules, which had for many years taken a hands-off approach to political speech and had largely exempted politicians from its policies on acceptable speech.
Less than two years ago, Facebook introduced a policy that said that speech from politicians was newsworthy and should not be policed.