Facebook’s oversight board to decide if Trump should stay suspended

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Thursday it was referring its decision to indefinitely suspend the accounts of former U.S. President Donald Trump to its independent oversight board.

Trump will remain suspended while the board, a recently created body that can overrule the company’s decisions on content, reviews the decision. The board, which said it had accepted the case, will have a maximum of 90 days to make a ruling and for Facebook to act on it.

The social media company blocked Trump’s access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by the former president’s supporters earlier this month.

“I’m very confident of our case,” Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, told Reuters. “I’m very confident that any reasonable person looking at the circumstances in which we took that decision and looking at our existing policies will agree.”

“But of course this is a decision which has had reverberations around the world,” he added, saying there may be wider principles and policies at stake that the board may consider.

Clegg said Facebook had also asked the Oversight Board to provide recommendations on when political leaders can or should be blocked. The board’s recommendations are not binding, however.

Facebook said at the time the suspension would last at least until the end of Trump’s presidential term and perhaps indefinitely. Trump’s term expired on Wednesday when Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

Twitter Inc has suspended Trump permanently.

Clegg said Trump had not been made aware of Facebook’s decision to suspend him indefinitely before it happened.

“Whilst it was a controversial decision because he was the president of the United States, it actually wasn’t a particularly complicated one to take,” he said, adding that in his view there was a “crystal-clear link between the words of Trump and the actions of people at the Capitol.”

The Oversight Board, which is made up of 20 members including a former prime minister, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and several law experts and rights advocates, was created by Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic content.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Matthew Lewis)