Facebook announced on Friday that Donald Trump’s accounts on the company’s platforms—which includes the former president’s Instagram account—are going to be suspended for a full two years. At the end of that two-year gap, the company will “look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” before reinstating his account.
This news comes about a month after the company’s Oversight Board voted to uphold the suspensions that struck Trump after he used the platform to praise people involved with the Capitol riots on January 6th. Because his account was officially suspended the following day, Facebook says that the two-year block will stay in place until January 7th, 2023.
According to a blog post by Facebook’s VP of global affairs, Nick Clegg, the two year period is meant to be “long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself.”
At the time of the original Oversight Board vote, some members criticized the originally open-ended nature of the ban, demanding that Facebook re-review their decision and “justify a proportionate response” for the then-outgoing president. They gave Facebook six months to respond with a verdict that “should be “consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.” This two-year stretch is meant to respond to those criticisms.
In the blog, the company noted that “any penalty” that gets applied (or not applied) to Trump will inevitably be controversial.
“There are many people who believe it was not appropriate for a private company like Facebook to suspend an outgoing President from its platform, and many others who believe Mr. Trump should have immediately been banned for life,” Facebook wrote. “We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide—but our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible.”
In addition to its decision on Trump, Facebook also updated its policies regarding posts by all politicians, which was first reported by the Verge. This includes publishing its “strike system” to allow users to “know what actions our systems will take if they violate our policies,” and limited its “newsworthiness” standard, which the company used as the basis for letting Trump say shit like this. Facebook says it will publish any instance in which it applies its “newsworthiness allowance” and, importantly, it will no longer “treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else.”
“We allow certain content that is newsworthy or important to the public interest to remain on our platform—even if it might otherwise violate our Community Standards,” Clegg wrote. “We may also limit other enforcement consequences, such as demotions, when it is in the public interest to do so. When making these determinations, however, we will remove content if the risk of harm outweighs the public interest.”