Donald Trump will continue to be suspended from Facebook and Instagram, said the company’s Oversight Board in a decision Wednesday morning. The independent board—made up of academics, policy experts, journalists, and others—upheld Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump’s accounts following his actions on January 6 with a caveat that the company was wrong to suspend the accounts indefinitely.
During the attack at the Capitol in January, Trump released a now-notorious video to both Facebook and Instagram in which he directly spoke to insurrectionists, saying he loved them, calling them “very special people,” and upholding his lie of election fraud. That same day he later posted a message on Facebook, writing “Remember this day forever!” These two posts “violated Facebook’s rules prohibiting praise or support of people engaged in violence,” according to the oversight board. They contend that Trump “likely knew or should have known that these communications would pose a risk of legitimizing or encouraging violence.” The board continued:
The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions. As president, Mr. Trump had a high level of influence. The reach of his posts was large, with 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram.
While the platform’s decision to remove Trump’s January 6 content and suspend his accounts was found legitimate, the confusion on the suspension’s length of time was a sticking point: “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” The board gave Facebook leadership six months to review and make a decision to “determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.”
In other words, we’ll hear back from the company by November (at the latest) on its decision to either specify a suspension end date or move forward with banning Trump and disabling his account permanently. (Another strange detail: According to the board’s content director, Eli Sugarman, Trump submitted a statement to the board during this review process that was “replete” with lies that blamed “outside forces” for inciting the attack.)
The decision comes a day after Trump, attempting to remain relevant despite losing his big-tech platform access, pushed his new “communications platform” (that is to say, “blog”) “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.” For anyone not clicking on that corner of the internet, the oversight board’s ruling means that we will continue to have Trump-free months of Facebook and Instagram—though it all still depends on whether Facebook will ban him permanently.