Wed. Feb 24th, 2021

New Delhi:Facebook Inc. on Thursday said that it was handing its decision to suspend former president Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram account to its independent oversight board. The board was recently created by Facebook, to overrule the company’s decisions on content, reviews such decision. In the meanwhile, Trump’s account will remain suspended.

After the U.S. Capitol was attacked by an angry pro-Trump mob on January 6th, Facebook blocked Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts fearing further unrest. Initially it was decided that the block last at least until the end of Trump’s presidential term and perhaps indefinitely.

“Whilst it was a controversial decision because he was the president of the United States, it actually wasn’t a particularly complicated one to take,” Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, told Reuters, adding he felt there was a “crystal-clear link” between the words of Trump and the actions of people at the Capitol.

“I’m very confident of our case,” Clegg said. “I’m very confident that any reasonable person looking at the circumstances in which we took that decision and looking at our existing policies will agree.”

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In no hurry for a decision

It is the first time the company has blocked a current president, prime minister or head of state. The board has about 90 days to review as Facebook hasn’t asked for an expedited decision. But an Oversight Board spokesman told Reuters it would likely be sooner than that.

The Oversight Board was created Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic content. It currently has 20 members. Facebook had also asked the board to provide recommendations on when political leaders can or should be blocked. Facebook does not have to act on this recommendation, unlike the board’s case decision which is meant to be binding.

“That’s why we’re here, to not leave these decisions to the leadership of Facebook but actually use the Oversight Board to look at this in a principled way,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a board co-chair and the former Danish prime minister to Reuters.

The administrators of Trump’s Facebook page will have the option to submit a written statement challenging Facebook’s decision.

Facebook and other social media companies have come under fire for the proliferation of violent rhetoric and election misinformation on their platforms, including by Trump and his allies which increased after the Capitol attack which was organized in social media platforms. Twitter Inc has suspended Trump permanently.

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