- The Washington Times - Friday, January 22, 2021

Facebook’s Oversight Board is set to review the company’s decision to ban former President Trump indefinitely. While the board is intended to operate independently of Facebook to review its content moderation decisions, Facebook executive Nick Clegg said he expects the panel will approve of Facebook’s ban. 

Amid a public outcry that Facebook’s content crackdowns lacked impartiality, Facebook announced last year that it would develop the Oversight Board to resemble something of a judiciary for content enforcement and governance on Facebook and Instagram. The board is technically separate from Facebook, though it operates with a $130 million trust from Facebook

Mr. Clegg announced Thursday that Facebook had referred its decision to ban Mr. Trump to the Oversight Board, and noted on Twitter that Facebook executives “hope & expect” the board would affirm the ban. 

“We believe our decision was necessary and right,” said Mr. Clegg in a post on Facebook’s blog. “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. While we await the board’s decision, Mr. Trump’s access will remain suspended indefinitely. We look forward to receiving the board’s decision — and we hope, given the clear justification for our actions on January 7, that it will uphold the choices we made.””

Earlier this month, Facebook prevented Mr. Trump for posting for 24 hours across its platforms in the aftermath of the riot at the Capitol. Then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg extended the ban at least “until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” After President Biden’s inauguration, Facebook indicated it has no plans to remove the ban. 

Now that it has tasked the Oversight Board with reviewing the ban, Facebook is making the case that its unprecedented action was necessary because of the “unprecedented set of events.” 

Mr. Clegg, who formerly served as deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Mr. Trump was “actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power” and that the company’s first priority in banning the sitting president was “to assist in the peaceful transfer of power.”

“Some said that Facebook should have banned President Trump long ago, and that the violence on the Capitol was itself a product of social media; others that it was an unacceptable display of unaccountable corporate power over political speech,” said Mr. Clegg on Facebook’s blog. “We have taken the view that in open democracies people have a right to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can be held to account. But it has never meant that politicians can say whatever they like.”

No timetable is set for when the board will issue an opinion on the ban, but Mr. Clegg said any decision would be posted on the Oversight Board‘s website. 

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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