A terrible social media week for Donald Trump as Facebook extends suspension to two years

First, Trump voluntarily nuked “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” his own blog, created only at the beginning of May. Then on Friday, Facebook announced that the former U.S. president's suspension from Facebook and Instagram, initially announced in the wake of the deadly Jan 6. U.S. Capitol insurrection, would be extended to two years.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right) meets former U.S. President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Photo credit: Joiyce N. Boghosian via the Trump White House Archived official Flickr account. (Public domain)

BY OBERT MADONDO | @Obiemad | JUN. 5, 2021

It’s been one hell of a horrible week for Donald Trump. Earlier in the week, the former U.S. president voluntarily nuked “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” his own blog, created only at the beginning of May. As reported by USA Today, Trump had “used the short-lived blog as an alternative to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites that banned him because of his constant false statements about last year’s election loss to President Joe Biden.”

Then on Friday, Facebook extended Trump’s suspension from Facebook and Instagram, initially announced in the wake of the deadly Jan 6. U.S. Capitol insurrection, to two years. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of global affairs and communications, announced the extension of the suspension via 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. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year… In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it 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.

Facebook initially suspended Trump from using his Facebook and Instagram accounts in the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump white nationalists, far-right extremists, white supremacists, QAnon adherents, elected politicians, serving military and police officers, and ordinary Americans.

As the unprecedented attack unfolded, Trump posted violence-inducing videos or statements to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms, praising the insurrectionists. He claimed that the November 2020 presidential election, which he lost to now President Joe Biden, “was stolen from us.” He told his agitated followers to “go home” now but “remember this day forever!” Then he told the rioters: “We love you,” and “You’re very special.”

After suspending Trump, Facebook referred the case to its semi-independent Oversight Board, comprising former politicians, academics, human rights experts and media figures. In its ruling, issued May 5th, the board upheld Facebook’s suspension of Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts but criticized the open-ended nature of the penalty:

However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.

The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform. Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision. The Board also made policy recommendations for Facebook to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression.

At the end of Trump’s 2-year suspension period, Facebook “will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” Clegg wrote in his blog post, adding:

We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded. When the suspension is eventually lifted, there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.

Meanwhile, according to The New York Times and The Verge, Facebook will also be ending its highly controversial special treatment of divisive politicians such as Trump and demagogues around the world, which, until now, has allowed them to spread misleading or hurtful content on its platform while enjoying exemption from the social media behemoth’s content moderation rules.

Below are a few news headlines highlighting Trump’s terrible social media week:

The Guardian: Facebook to suspend Trump’s account for two years

Facebook is suspending Donald Trump’s account for two years, the company has announced in a highly anticipated decision that follows months of debate over the former president’s future on social media.

“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. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, said in a statement on Friday. At the end of the suspension period, Facebook said, it would work with experts to assess the risk to public safety posed by reinstating Trump’s account. (Wong. The Guardian, Jun. 4, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The New York Times: Facebook says Trump’s ban will last at least 2 years

Facebook said on Friday that Donald J. Trump’s suspension from the service would last at least two years, keeping the former president off mainstream social media for the 2022 midterm elections, as the company also said it would end a policy of treating posts from politicians differently from those of other users.

The social network said Mr. Trump would be eligible for reinstatement in January 2023, before the next presidential election. It will then look to experts to decide “whether the risk to public safety has receded,” Facebook said. The company barred Mr. Trump from the service after he made comments on social media that rallied his supporters, who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but it had not given a firm timeline about when or if the suspension would end. (Isaac and Frenkel. The New York Times, Jun. 4, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Facebook: In response to Oversight Board, Trump suspended for two years; Will only be reinstated if conditions permit

Last month, the Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following his praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on January 6. But in doing so, the board criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension, stating that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” The board instructed us to review the decision and respond in a way that is clear and proportionate, and made a number of recommendations on how to improve our policies and processes.

We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts. (Clegg. Facebook, Jun. 4, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Verge: Facebook to end special treatment for politicians after Trump ban

Facebook plans to end its controversial policy that mostly shields politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to other users, a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network. The change, which Facebook is set to announce as soon as Friday, comes after the Oversight Board — an independent group funded by Facebook to review its thorniest content rulings — affirmed its decision to suspend former President Donald Trump but critiqued the special treatment it gives politicians, stating that the “same rules should apply to all users.” The board gave Facebook till June 5th to respond to its policy recommendations.

Facebook also plans to shed light on the secretive system of strikes it gives accounts for breaking its content rules, according to two people familiar with the changes. That will include letting users know when they’ve received a strike for violating its rules that could lead to suspension. (Heath. The Verge, June 3, 2021) READ FULL STORY

USA Today: No more ‘From The Desk of Donald J. Trump’: Former president shut down blog launched just a month ago

“From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” is no longer. The former president shut down a blog he created just a month ago, though many of his written statements that appeared on it remain on his traditional website, a spokesman said Wednesday. Trump used the short-lived blog as an alternative to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites that banned him because of his constant false statements about last year’s election loss to President Joe Biden. (Jackson. USA Today, Jun. 2, 2021) READ FULL STORY

USA Today: Facebook suspends Donald Trump for two years, citing ‘severe violation’ after Capitol riots

Facebook suspended former President Donald Trump for two years but ending just in time for him to possibly regain his powerful social media megaphone in the 2024 election cycle. After that period, Facebook said it would consult experts to determine whether “the risk to public safety has receded,” and make a call on Trump’s return.

But Facebook warned that Trump’s Facebook and Instagram, if reinstated, would face a “strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” if he violates the company’s rules again after being reinstated on Jan. 7, 2023. (Guynn. USA Today, June 4, 2021) READ FULL STORY

The Guardian: Donald Trump responds to Facebook ban by hinting at return to White House

Donald Trump has appeared to drop his strongest hint yet at another presidential run in 2024, responding to news of his two-year ban from Facebook on Friday by saying he would not invite Mark Zuckerberg to dinner “next time I’m in the White House”. It has also been widely reported this week that Trump believes he will be reinstated in the presidency by August…

Trump’s statement read: “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!” Trump has a history of using public statements to troll his opponents and a long record of lies and exaggerations and promoting baseless conspiracy theories. At the same time Trump has maintained a strong grip on the Republican party and there is intense speculation about whether or not he would run for the presidency again. (Pengelly. The Guardian, Jun. 4, 2021) READ FULL STORY

Forbes: Will Donald Trump ever return to Facebook? Maybe but may be not

On Friday Facebook opened the door for an eventual return of former President Donald Trump to the platform, but reaffirmed that his account will remains suspended for at least two years… Even if or when the suspension is lifted, the former president could find himself under intense scrutiny, and Facebook warned that if there are further violations that could lead to a “permanent removal of his pages and accounts.” (Suciu. Forbes, Jun. 4, 2021) READ FULL STORY

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Obert Madondo
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. Obert is the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive and The Zimbabwean Progressive, both of which are independent political blogs dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented journalism situated right at the intersection of politics, technology and human rights. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad
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