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Facebook refers Donald Trump indefinite suspension after Capitol attack to oversight board which could overturn it

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Facebook has handed off responsibility about whether to restore former President Donald Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts to its Oversight Board.

The decision to block Trump’s access following the attack on the U.S. Capitol was praised by Trump critics and had the support of most Americans but was condemned by free speech advocates who warned it set a dangerous precedent.

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The Oversight Board accepted the case, saying the suspension has driven “intense global interest.” 

Trump’s accounts will remain frozen until the Oversight Board rules on whether to lift the suspension.

“The Oversight Board has been closely following events in the United States and Facebook’s response to them, and the Board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company’s decision,” the oversight board said in a statement.

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Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said the company believes its decision was “necessary and right.”

“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,” he said.

Facebook's oversight board will review and possibly overturn former President Donald Trump's indefinite suspension.

Facebook’s oversight board launched last year to tackle the toughest calls the company faces. It is supposed to function as an independent entity but gets financial backing from Facebook. 

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In September, some of the company’s critics launched a rival panel of independent experts to monitor Facebook. The company dismissed the effort as “mostly longtime critics creating a new channel for existing criticisms.”

“Facebook failed for months to take action over Donald Trump’s repeated use of its platform to incite violence, spread disinformation and systematic attempts to subvert the election. Its abject failure to act undoubtedly played a role in the violent events that unfolded at the Capitol on Janua 6,” these critics said in a statement. “American democracy survived in spite of Facebook.” 

Throughout his presidency, social media companies wrestled with how to moderate one of their most popular and powerful users.

Time and again, Trump tested the boundaries of what he could say, violating prohibitions against election misinformation, glorifying violence and falsehoods about COVID-19. But the decision to suspend Trump after the violent unrest in Washington brought growing discomfort with a handful of corporations having so much control over the nation’s online conversation.

CEO Jack Dorsey, whose platform permanently banned Trump, said later he thought Twitter made the right decision but worried about the repercussions.

“We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety,” Dorsey wrote. “Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”

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