A vote by Facebook's Oversight Board this month could overturn Donald Trump's ban from Facebook and Instagram.
The board is poised to vote later this month on the social media company's decision to ban the former U.S. president from its platforms following the violent protests at the Capitol on January 6. The day after the riots, Facebook announced that it would suspend the then-president's official accounts indefinitely, citing the "incitement or encouragement of the events at the Capitol."
Facebook and the oversight board both declined to comment for this story.
The 20-member committee, established by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019, is often referred to as "Facebook's Supreme Court" because it can overturn decisions made by Facebook executives. Its members include journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and academics. The group has so far made nine nonbinding policy decisions and says that since October users have submitted over 150,000 cases for its review.
Two key factors will play a central role in the Trump case: Users' rights to "free expression" and the public's right to safety. The board will also evaluate whether Facebook's content policies were easy to understand and equitably applied.
After Facebook banned Trump in January, the Center for Democracy's Emma Llansó told CBS News, "There's a degree of balancing that most of these sites have been trying to do between applying their general policies against hate speech or threatening and inciting language and acknowledging that there is significant newsworthiness in what a sitting president says."
What either ruling could mean
A decision to overturn the ban could allow Trump to return to Facebook and Instagram and potentially set a precedent for how politicians choose to use the two social media platforms in the future. However, even if the oversight board votes to restore Trump's accounts, Facebook would still have the power to place restrictions on them.
If the oversight board rules to uphold the ban, Trump could opt to build his own social media site. In recent weeks, advisers to Trump have claimed he is on the cusp of launching a social network that will host "tens of millions of people." However, many tech experts are skeptical of his ability to build and maintain a competitive technology platform.
But Trump has reason to be optimistic about the upcoming vote. In its previous decisions the oversight board has tended to rule in favor of "free expression." The board has sided against the company on several high-profile cases, including a ruling to overturn Facebook's removal of a post about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China. The Oversight Board has also overturned decisions to remove posts relating to nudity, COVID-19 misinformation and hate speech, while upholding a decision to remove a post that contained an ethnic slur.
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