SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook said Friday that Donald J. Trump’s suspension of service will last at least two years, keeping the former president out of mainstream social media for the midterm elections. 2022, as the company also said it would end its policy of treating posts from politicians other than those of other users.
The social network said Mr Trump would be eligible to be reinstated in January 2023, before the next presidential election. It will then review experts to decide “whether the risk to public safety has been reduced,” Facebook said. The company banned Mr. Trump from the service after he made comments on social media rallying his supporters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, but it did not give a firm timeline on when or whether the suspension would end.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions were a serious violation of our rules, deserving of the highest penalty available under the law. new enforcement protocols,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, wrote in a company blog post.
If reinstated, Mr Trump would be subject to a series of “rapidly escalating sanctions” if he commits further violations, up to and including the permanent suspension of his account, Facebook said. .
Facebook also said it would end its policy of keeping politicians’ posts by default even if their speech violates its rules.
For years, Facebook and other social media companies have said they would not interfere with political speech because it was in the public interest. During Mr. Trump’s presidency, companies did not refrain from his extremist language as he attacked enemies and spread misinformation. They changed their stance after Trump took to social media on the day of the Capitol attack.
Facebook’s rethinking of its treatment of political speech has implications not only for American politics but also for world leaders like President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who are already active on this platform.
However, Facebook’s moves, which create a more specific framework for how it handles political figures, are unlikely to please its detractors and could reinforce what some see as political figures. disproportionate corporate power over online speech.
“There are many who believe that it is inappropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing president from its platform, and many others believe that Mr. Trump should be immediately banned for life. “. Mr. Clegg said. “We know today’s decision will be criticized by many on opposing sides of the political divide – but our job is to make the decision in the most proportionate, fair and transparent way possible.” body.”
He said the moves were a response to criticism that the company wasn’t providing enough insight into its decision-making, and he said Facebook was rolling out a system of protocols and commands. sanctions to apply in special cases like Mr. Trump.
For Mr. Trump, who has been permanently banned from Twitter, Facebook’s action means he will be muted from mainstream platforms for at least the 2022 midterm election cycle. Mr. Trump, the former when there was a ban on using social media as a megaphone to reach his tens of millions of followers, it became more difficult to communicate with those supporters – and even bigger in the field main Republican Party. He started a blog called “From Donald J. Trump’s Desk” about a month ago but shut it down this week after it gained little traction.
In an emailed statement, Mr Trump said Facebook’s ruling was “an insult to the record-setting 75 million people, plus many others, who voted for us in the Presidential Election”. full of challenges in 2020.” He added that Facebook should not be allowed to “censor and silence” him and others on the platform.
Mr. Trump then sent another message to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer. “Next time I’m at the White House, there won’t be another dinner, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife,” he said. “It’s all going to be business!”
Facebook said Mr Trump’s two-year suspension was a severe punishment and was in response to criticism that the company had not set a specific timeline for his ban and was not tied to it. midterm elections. The company also said it could extend Mr. Trump’s suspension even further and that it would monitor external factors such as instances of violence to determine if it needed to do so.
Facebook’s move to no longer automatically exempt politicians’ speeches from its rules is a complete reversal of the free speech stance Zuckerberg once advocated. In a 2019 speech at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg said, “The right of people to express themselves on a large scale is a new kind of force in the world – Fifth Heritage along with other power structures of society.”
But that stance has drawn criticism from lawmakers, activists and Facebook employees themselves, who say the company allows misinformation and other harmful speech from politicians. ruler without hindrance.
While many academics and activists hail Facebook’s changes as a step in the right direction, they say implementing the new rules will be difficult. The company will likely enter a complicated dance with global leaders who are accustomed to receiving the platform’s special treatment, they said.
“This change will subject the speech of world leaders to greater scrutiny,” said David Kaye, a law professor and former United Nations monitor for free speech. “It will be painful for leaders who are not used to scrutiny, and it will also lead to stress.”
Kaye said countries including India, Turkey and Egypt have threatened to take action against Facebook if it acts against the interests of the ruling parties. Countries said they could punish local Facebook employees or ban access to the service, he said.
“This decision by Facebook imposes new political calculations both on these global leaders and on Facebook,” Mr. Kaye said.
Pressure is also coming from Russia, where the country’s internet regulator has stepped up demands that Facebook, Twitter and Google remove online content they consider illegal and restore blocked pro-Kremlin material. . In India, last month officers from the country’s elite counter-terrorism police force visited Twitter’s New Delhi offices to show off their force, a sign that Mr. increasingly frustrated with American internet companies.
At Facebook, the decision to change its policy on political speech began in earnest after conservatives and others opposed Trump’s decision in January, saying it had been censored. To counter the criticism, Facebook referred Trump’s case to its Oversight Board, a company-appointed panel of academics, journalists and former government members. The board reviews content cases and decides whether Facebook is taking the right action on them.
Last month, the board ruled that Facebook was right to ban Mr. Trump from Facebook, but it said the company had not fully explained its decision and the indefinite suspension of the former president. is “inappropriate”. It kicked off the decision on whether to permanently ban Mr. Trump from Facebook.
The executives then spent the past few weeks discussing and reviewing the company’s policies, said the two were knowledgeable about the considerations, including reviewing the rationale at Facebook stars have created a special exemption for politicians. After executives were unable to fully explain the exemption to themselves, they decided the rule should not be automated, the people said.
But the company still has a way of perpetuating controversial political speeches in rare or exceptional circumstances. If Facebook thinks a statement from a politician violates its rules but is “credible” enough and in the public interest, Facebook can still decide to leave the post alone. The company plans to disclose such cases as they occur.
That’s still plenty of room for Facebook, says Jillian C. York, an internet censorship expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in Berlin. “The new policy is still not clear and there is much room for explanation,” she said.
Facebook also said it will provide outside experts with data on how people use its platform until the end of February so researchers can study the network’s role in the riots. 6/1. That expands on an effort the company announced last year, when it said it would share data about last year’s presidential election.
Facebook has long said it doesn’t want to be the referee. Mr. Zuckerberg has called on lawmakers to create regulations so that his company follows content decisions.
On Friday, Mr. Clegg reinforced that message.
“American democracy does not belong in Silicon Valley. It belongs to the American people,” Mr. Clegg said in a podcast interview. “And it is this country’s legislators and politicians who must ultimately administer the applicable rules.”
Maggie Haberman contribution report.