An independent oversight board for Facebook is now determining if Donald Trump will be allowed to return to the company’s social media platforms after Facebook indefinitely suspended Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Facebook referred the decision to the board on Thursday, which Facebook says can make binding decisions that not even CEO Mark Zuckerberg can overturn.
Currently, the board consists of 20 members, co-chair Jamal Greene told NPR’s All Things Considered, who will break into panels to determine whether the suspension was appropriate and consistent with the company’s policies and values. Greene is also a law professor at Columbia Law School.
“We draw on both the company’s own terms of service, which they refer to as their community standards, and whether they were properly applied, but also Facebook has what are called values,” Greene tells NPR. “Voice is one of those values. Safety is one of those values. Dignity is one of those values. And we are also charged with applying those values.”
In weighing the suspension of the former president’s accounts on both Facebook and Instagram — which the company also owns — the board would also consider, Greene said, international rights law “that has standards for when and how freedom of expression can be regulated.”
“Facebook has committed to acting consistent with those standards, and so the board is set up to try to apply those international human rights norms to the behavior of the company,” Greene added.
Facebook put the indefinite suspension on Trump’s accounts following an initial 24-hour block shortly after the insurrection. In announcing the minimum two-week indefinite suspension on Jan. 7, Zuckerberg said the “risks” of continuing to allow Trump access to the company’s platforms were “simply too great.”
The next day, Twitter said it was permanently banning Trump’s account.
Earlier this week, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications defended the suspension to NPR.
“We believe we took the right decision. We think it was entirely justified by the unprecedented circumstances on that day,” Nick Clegg told NPR’s All Things Considered on Thursday.
Greene notes the board doesn’t preemptively make the decisions — such as Trump’s suspension — for Facebook. Instead, it mainly reviews decisions already made by the company about removing content and determines whether to allow the content back on the platform.
Greene also notes this case will provide policy advice and obligations for how the company handles the accounts of politicians in the future — a reoccurring criticism for the company and its CEO.
“This is something that has been a challenge for the company and for other platforms in the past, given that political leaders are very differently situated than ordinary citizens,” Greene said.
The board was formed last year to weigh the most difficult decisions over what Facebook allows users to post. It began accepting cases in October but has yet to issue a ruling.
Editor’s note: Facebook is among NPR’s financial supporters.