After several months of deliberation and “outreach consultation,” the Oversight Board – the body that makes the final decision on bannings at Facebook and Instagram has decided that former President Donald J. Trump will remain persona non grata on its platforms for at least another six months. While the news will be lauded as a victory by some and a heinous infringement by others, for the 45th president, this may just be the best possible outcome.
The Oversight Board released a short statement explaining their decision to have Facebook provide a more definitive response within half a year.:
“The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account.
However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.
The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform. Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision. The Board also made policy recommendations for Facebook to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression.”
Yet once again, it seems that The Donald has managed to stay ahead of the game.
A Voice of His Own
Perhaps in anticipation of the Board’s rejection, the former president decided to launch his own small platform, called From the Desk of Donald J. Trump. It is an extremely streamlined platform that operates more as a blog, as in only Trump can post, but it allows followers to share his messages to a number of other social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
One of his early posts hints that Twitter may have made a huge mistake in handing him a lifetime ban. He writes:
“Twitter stock “plunged” as results are no longer cutting it for investors. Shares are off 15% today. Bad forecasts are hurting the outlook but more importantly, in my opinion, it has become totally BORING as people flock to leave the site. Michael Nathanson stated, “the math doesn’t make sense” as he lowered his price target. I guess that’s what happens when you go against FREEDOM OF SPEECH! It will happen to others also.”
In terms of other platforms, YouTube (which is owned by Google) says it will reinstate Trump videos when there is no longer a “risk of real-world violence,” from his participation.
A Moral Arbiter?
It seems that the Silicon Valley execs see themselves as the moral arbiters of the age. They determine what constitutes a threat of violence, they determine whose opinions should benefit from their platforms, and they sift their networks for views that do not conform to their own.
Leaving aside for a moment why the billions of social media users should grant this power to corporations, perhaps it is wise to consider briefly who it is that provides a risk of “real-world violence.”
A prominent Washington newspaper released a report today (May 5) that detailed how young African and Middle Eastern women are exploited and trafficked to such places as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates after being “recruited” through Instagram job opportunities. The report details how more than 200 accounts on Facebook’s sister platform were found to be engaged in offering supposedly good jobs to young women, who are then locked in small crowded rooms with no beds, and left with nothing but their underwear until such time as they are fielded out.
When the paper approached Instagram for comment, a Facebook spokeswoman responded, “Human exploitation is horrific, and we don’t allow it on Instagram. We’ve disabled all the accounts reported to us.”
But these were just the accounts highlighted by the report.
In late March, the U.K.’s leading child-protection charity, The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, stated that Facebook’s platforms had been used in more than half of all online child sex crimes.
Slavery, trafficking, exploitation, child pornography… These are crimes that slip past the censors. Perhaps Donald Trump is better off not being involved after all?
Read more from Mark Angelides.