Facebook suspends Donald Trump for two years

Barbara OrtutayAAP
VideoDonald Trump's Facebook account is to be suspended for two years, the social network has announced. The former US president was blocked from the platform indefinitely following violent clashes in the US Capitol on January 6, which Mr Trump was bl...

Facebook said it will suspend former US president Donald Trump’s accounts for two years after judging that he stoked violence ahead of the deadly US Capitol riots on January 6.

“At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded. We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post on Friday.

On Facebook, Trump’s suspension has meant that his account is essentially in “Facebook jail,” where others can read and comment on past posts but Trump and other account handlers are unable to post new material.

Facebook also plans to end a contentious policy championed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that automatically exempted politicians from rules that banned hate speech and abuse.

The company has said it has never applied this policy to Trump.

VideoPresident Trump is trying to re-write history when it comes to the violent riots of January 6 at the US Capitol Building.

The social media giant said on Friday that while it would still apply this “newsworthiness” exemption to certain posts it deems to be in the public interest even if they violate Facebook rules, it would no longer treat material posted by politicians any differently from that posted by anyone else.

In addition, Facebook said it would make public whenever it does apply the exemption to a post.

The former president called Facebook’s decision on the suspension “an insult”. The two-year ban replaced a previous ruling that ordered Trump to be suspended indefinitely.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our country can’t take this abuse any more!” Trump said in a news release.

The social media platform’s announcements are in response to recommendations from its quasi-independent oversight board.

Last month that panel upheld a decision by Facebook to suspend Trump but said the company could not merely suspend him “indefinitely” and gave it six months to decide what to do with his accounts.

Riot on January 6 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC
Camera IconThe Capitol attack "struck at the very heart of our democracy", a US judge said during a hearing. Credit: AP

Facebook has had a general “newsworthiness exemption” since 2016.

But it garnered attention in 2019 when Clegg, a former UK deputy prime minister, announced that speech from politicians will be treated as “newsworthy content that should, as a general rule, be seen and heard”.

The newsworthiness exemption, he explained in a blog post at the time, meant that if “someone makes a statement or shares a post which breaks our community standards we will still allow it on our platform if we believe the public interest in seeing it outweighs the risk of harm”.

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