Former President Donald Trump will find out this week whether he gets to return to Facebook in a decision likely to stir up strong feelings no matter which way it goes.
The social network’s quasi-independent Oversight Board says it will announce its ruling Wednesday on a case concerning the former president.
Trump's account was suspended for inciting violence that led to the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riots. After years of treating Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric with a light touch, Facebook and Instagram silenced his accounts on Jan. 7, saying at the time he’d be suspended “at least” through the end of his presidency.
Though Trump posted often to Facebook — and his campaign was especially skillful at using the social network's advertising tools to reach potential voters — his platform of choice was always Twitter. But Twitter banned him permanently, without an oversight board to kick the final decision to.
While not always as high-profile as Twitter, Trump's Facebook posts were widely shared, as were those of his those of his conservative supporters such as Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino, who continue to amass millions of views and comments. On Twitter, meanwhile, Fox News host Tucker Carlson appears to be stepping into the conservative provocateur-in-chief role in the vacuum left by Trump.
“If they reinstate him, Facebook will claim this proves the Board’s independence. If they don’t, Facebook will say its judgment to exclude Trump was vindicated. Heads they win, tails we lose. Journalists should know better than to take this window dressing seriously,” said Laurence Tribe, professor at Harvard Law School and member of the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group critical of Facebook and its panel.
Facebook created the oversight panel to rule on thorny content on its platforms in response to widespread criticism about its inability to respond swiftly and effectively to misinformation, hate speech and nefarious influence campaigns. Its decisions so far have weighed on the side of free expression vs. restricting content.
In its first rulings, the panel overturned four out of five decisions by the social network to take down questionable content. It ordered Facebook to restore posts by users that the company said broke standards on adult nudity, hate speech, or dangerous individuals.