Facebook said Thursday it will refer its indefinite suspension of former President Donald Trump’s account to its independent oversight board — the highest-profile test to date for the panel, and a move that could lead to Trump either returning to the platform or facing a permanent suspension.
The announcement: Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in a blog post Thursday that the company is referring the case to the company’s oversight board. The board, often likened to a “supreme court” for the social network, has the power to review and overturn the company’s enforcement actions.
“We believe our decision was necessary and right,” Clegg wrote. “Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld.”
The board indicated it will accept the referral. “A decision by the Board on this case will be binding on Facebook, and determine whether Mr. Trump’s suspension from access to Facebook and Instagram for an indefinite amount of time is overturned,” the group said Thursday.
Still on ice: The social media giant had earlier announced it was blocking Trump from posting on either Facebook or Instagram at least through the end of this term after his supporters stormed the Capitol, with the company citing risks of additional violence in making the call. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg last week said the company had no plans to lift the suspension.
The decision drew praise from Democratic lawmakers, who had long called for Facebook and other social media platforms to crack down harder on posts by Trump and his allies they said have stoked divisions and incited violence. But Republicans have hammered tech companies for stifling the former president, reviving allegations that Silicon Valley companies are biased against conservatives. And some free speech advocates and foreign leaders have voiced concern about the impact of a private company making such decisions.
The oversight board, made up of former government officials, civil rights leaders and other outside experts, officially launched last year. The case over Trump’s suspension will serve the biggest test to date of the group, created to review and reconsider some of Facebook’s highest-profile content rulings.