Facebook Inc. on Friday suspended former US President Donald Trump from its platform until at least January 2023 in a decision that has been watched closely for signals on how the company will treat rule-breaking world leaders in the future.
The social media giant’s independent oversight board in May upheld its block on Trump, which was enforced in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol over concerns that his posts were inciting violence.
However, the board ruled it was wrong to make the ban indefinite and gave it six months to determine a “proportionate response.”
Trump’s suspension was effective from the initial date in January and will only be reinstated if conditions permit, Facebook said in a blog post.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols,” Facebook said.
The decision came on the same day as Europe and Britain launched formal antitrust investigations into whether Facebook misuses its vast trove of customer data.
Social media companies have grappled in recent years with how to handle world leaders and politicians that violate their guidelines.
Facebook has come under fire from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech. But it has also been criticized by those, including Republican lawmakers and some free-expression advocates, who saw the Trump ban as a disturbing act of censorship.
Trump’s suspension was the first time Facebook had blocked a current president, prime minister or head of state.