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Facebook's Oversight Board Must Uphold the Ban on Trump

Added 03-01-21 08:06:02am EST - “It's not just about penalizing the former president. It's about protecting democracy” - Wired.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Wired.com: “Facebook's Oversight Board Must Uphold the Ban on Trump”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

In the coming weeks, the Facebook Oversight Board will rule on Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension from the platform. This will surely be the Board’s most important ruling to-date. The Board’s specific decisions are binding for Facebook, and in this case the ruling will likely go far beyond Trump and set a global precedent for the policies and enforcement actions the company makes going forward. The stakes could not be higher—not only for American democracy, but for countries around the world that have and will come under threat from undemocratic political leaders. Like it or not, Facebook has a crucial role to play in safeguarding democracy. And the Board’s decision will help determine whether the company can fulfill this responsibility, or will wash its hands of its democratic obligations.

Daniel Kreiss is the Edgar Thomas Cato Distinguished Associate Professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media and a principal researcher of the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill. Shannon C. McGregor is an assistant professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a senior researcher with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill.  

Our decade of research on how politicians use social media has made it clear that there’s only one correct way forward. Together with researchers at UNC’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life, we believe the Board should uphold Facebook’s ban on Trump’s account. The former president clearly, repeatedly, and flagrantly violated Facebook’s Community Standards in his attempt to deny the American public’s right to vote him out of office. Banning Trump from the platform permanently would follow the company's history of suspending users who repeatedly violate policies. More importantly, it would affirm Facebook’s responsibility to protect democracies around the world by taking a strong stance against expression that undermines democratic accountability, especially free and fair elections.

On the most fundamental level, Trump’s use of Facebook repeatedly violated the company’s policies. While there is debate over whether Trump directly incited the attempted coup on January 6, this is the wrong question on which to focus. The bigger and clearer violation of Facebook’s policies is the former president’s use of the platform to undermine free and fair elections—the public’s essential democratic voice. While Facebook’s commitment to “expression is paramount,” its Community Standards have long (rightly) balanced that against the risk of harm, including threats to safety, dignity, and electoral integrity. This includes the company’s extensive stated policies that protect what Mark Zuckerberg referred to as the public’s voice at the ballot box.

There is perhaps no more flagrant attempt in recent US history to silence the people than former President Trump’s months-long campaign of lies about mail-in ballots, illegal voting, and voter fraud and his statements that the election was “fraudulent” and “stolen.” Facebook’s Community Standards require evaluating both accounts and content, as well as the broader “circumstances” that provide context for what appears on the platform. In this case, the president’s election disinformation came in the context of his anti-democratic recognition of hate groups, failure to condemn extrajudicial violence, and work to have federal agencies downplay the threats of armed paramilitary groups.

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