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Facebook asks independent oversight board for final decision on Trump's account

A protected right? Free speech and social media
A protected right? Free speech and social media 06:56

Facebook wants its independent oversight board to rule whether former President Trump should regain access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts. Facebook defended its decision to suspend Mr. Trump indefinitely as "necessary and right."

The social media company said on Thursday that it hopes and expects the oversight board to confirm the company's decision to lock Mr. Trump's account after he utilized the platform to incite a violent mob on the U.S Capitol.

"Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld," Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a blog post.

Facebook says that its oversight board is independent and that its final decision cannot be overturned by anyone else at the company. While the case is under review, Mr. Trump's accounts will remain suspended, according to Clegg. 

"We'll work as quickly as we can," Jamal Greene, one of four co-chairs of Facebook's 20-member oversight board told CBS News. Greene, a Columbia University law professor, noted that there's a 90-day limit for the board to hear cases but doesn't "expect to have it take that long."

The oversight board was created last May and heard its first cases in the fall. Its members are based around the world and comprise lawyers, professors, journalists, and human rights activists. It also includes Denmark's former prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. 

"Trump's case is coming up in the first 10 cases that this Board has ever looked at," said Emma Llansó, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. 

"It is going to be really important to understand what kinds of things the Board takes into consideration in coming to its opinion and what we might expect to see from them in future cases," she added.

According to Greene, the Board will look at the content that Trump posted, consider Facebook's reasoning for the suspension, and determine whether the decision was made consistently with Facebook's community standards, company values, and international rights law. 

The public will have a chance to comment on the case starting next week and Trump will also be able to submit a statement to the Oversight Board.

"It's important for the Board's decision to be independent and for them to consider not only what Facebook says to them but what all of the various comments that they will get from the public," Llansó said in an interview. 

"This is far from just an issue we've encountered in the U.S, and it's going to be important for the board to understand beyond the U.S context, how are these policies on this kind of issue of high-ranking political figures saying inflammatory things and maybe even inciting offline violence playing out in a lot of different contexts around the world."

A five-member panel from the board will be assigned to hear the case and produce a final opinion, which will also include dissenting views. Its decision does not have to be unanimous and once an outcome is announced, Facebook will have seven days to implement it, Green said.

Llansó said since the board has only been operating for a few months, dealing with a high-profile case this early will test its capacity to balance various viewpoints while providing critical insight regarding its ability to function independently from Facebook.

In addition to the decision on Mr. Trump's accounts, Facebook is also looking for broader policy recommendations from the board regarding suspensions of users who are political leaders.

Facebook response to the board's policy recommendations is being closely watched as a sign of the body's power and independence. 

"If Facebook is able to take those recommendations seriously and even incorporate some of them, that would be a signal from Facebook that they are truly taking what this Board has to say into account," Llansó said.

Dan Patterson and Gisela Perez contributed to this story

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