Facebook's Oversight Board issued a scathing criticism of the company for avoiding its responsibilities in suspending Trump with an 'arbitrary penalty'

Facebook's Oversight Board issued a scathing criticism of the company for avoiding its responsibilities in suspending Trump with an 'arbitrary penalty'
Donald Trump Mark ZuckerbergChip Somodevilla/Getty Images/JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty
  • The Oversight Board upheld Facebook's suspension of Donald Trump but asked Facebook to review the decision.
  • It also said Facebook "seeks to avoid its responsibilities" by asking the board to resolve the case.
  • The criticism is notable since Facebook created the board to review content moderation decisions.

Facebook's Oversight Board on Wednesday upheld Facebook's decision to suspend former President Donald Trump's account.

But while the board sustained the decision, it also ordered a further review from Facebook and criticized the social-media company for skirting the responsibility that comes with moderating content on the platform.

At issue was Facebook's "indefinite suspension."

"In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities," the Board wrote. "The Board declines Facebook's request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty."

The criticism is notable since Facebook shelled out $130 million to create the board, which stood up in October and was designed to be independent and to review its content-moderation decisions. Some experts have expressed concern that the board was a way for Facebook to obfuscate responsibility.


The board also said Facebook must "reassess" what it called an "arbitrary penalty" that the company gave Trump on January 7. It also said Facebook must settle on an "appropriate penalty" that is in line with Facebook's rules, which must be "clear, necessary and proportionate." Facebook has six months to review the decision, the board said.

In a company blog post published Wednesday, Facebook said it was pleased with the board's decision but noted that the group did not specify how long Trump's suspension should last.

"Instead, the board criticized the open-ended nature of the suspension, calling it an 'indeterminate and standardless penalty,' and insisted we review our response," Facebook said in a blog post. "We will now consider the board's decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate. In the meantime, Mr. Trump's accounts remain suspended."

Facebook pointed Insider to its blog post in response to a request for comment.

Facebook suspended Trump indefinitely on January 7 after extremists stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to interfere with the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Facebook, and other tech platforms, cracked down on Trump after he turned to his online accounts to push baseless claims of election fraud.


Facebook said it moved to indefinitely suspend his accounts because "the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great."

Read more: Former Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser talks data rights legislation and the future of Big Tech under Biden

Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms have faced increased pressure in the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a period of social unrest, and the 2020 presidential election. Critics have called for the companies to do more to moderate hate speech and misinformation online after historically following a hands-off approach to content moderation policies.

Others have said the platforms' content moderation decisions are politically motivated. Some conservatives have lambasted the platforms and accused them of discriminating against right-wing voices.