The social media giant recently permitted a rash of ‘Hitler was right’ posts and other anti-Semitic incitement, while it takes a hard line on the former president.
By World Israel News Staff and AP
Facebook announced Friday that former President Donald Trump’s accounts will be suspended for two years, freezing his presence on the social network until early 2023, following a finding that Trump stoked violence ahead of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
At the end of the suspension, the company will assess whether Trump’s “risk to public safety” has subsided, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post. He said Facebook will take into account “external factors” such as instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest.
While Facebook is taking a hard line on the former president, it was recently slammed by the Anti-Defamation League ADL) for permitting content that “promote[s] anti-Semitism in clear contravention of the company’s community standards” against hate speech.
Facebook’s position has not been affected by the recent rash of vicious physical attacks on Jews in New York, California, and New Mexico, among other locations.
“Facebook’s inaction has helped spread [the] hatred of Jews and has contributed to historical[ly] high levels of anti-Semitism in America, and anti-Semitism online and offline across the globe,” wrote the ADL in a missive sent to the Facebook Oversight Board on Wednesday.
Facebook has permitted quotes attributed to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and the statement “Hitler was right.”
The ADL noted that anti-Semitic content on Facebook posts “traffic in long-standing conspiracies and tropes” that have been used for centuries “to justify persecution, from pogroms under czarist governments, to genocide under the Nazi regime, to shootings in this country.”
The ADL requested that Facebook’s Oversight Board “send a clear message that anti-Semitism has no place on Facebook,” and “put a stop to the implicit promotion of anti-Semitism on Facebook by overruling Facebook’s decisions to permit such content to flourish.”
Meanwhile, Facebook announced it would end a policy that automatically exempted politicians from rules banning hate speech and abuse, and that it would stiffen penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and violence.
The former president called Facebook’s decision to suspend him until 2023 “an insult.” The two-year ban replaced a previous ruling that ordered Trump to be suspended indefinitely.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!” Trump said in a news release.
Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become indispensable tools for politicians to get their messages out and to raise small-dollar donations. Without the megaphone of Twitter and the targeted fundraising appeals his campaign mastered on Facebook, Trump could be at a serious disadvantage relative to other politicians.
Trump has teased running for president again in 2024. His aides say that he has been working on launching his own social media platform to compete with those that have booted him, but one has yet to materialize. A blog he launched on his existing website earlier this year was shut down after less than a month. It attracted dismal traffic.
On Facebook, Trump’s suspension means that his account is essentially frozen. Others can read and comment on past posts, but Trump and other account handlers are unable to post new material. Twitter, by contrast, has permanently banned Trump from its service, and no trace of his account remains.
In a color-coded chart on its blog post, the company said public figures who violate its policies during times of crisis can be restricted from posting for a month (yellow) or as long as two years (red). Future violations, it said, will be met with “heightened penalties, up to and including permanent removal.”
The policy that exempted politicians from rules on hate speech and abuse was once championed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The company said it never applied the policy to Trump, but on Friday backtracked to say it did use it once, in 2019 for a video of a rally on his Facebook page.
The social media giant said it will still apply the “newsworthiness” exemption to certain posts it deems to be in the public interest, even if they violate Facebook rules. But it will no longer treat material posted by politicians any differently than other posts. In addition, Facebook said it will make public whenever it does apply the exemption to a post.
The announcements are in response to recommendations from the company’s quasi-independent oversight board. Last month, that panel upheld a decision by Facebook to keep Trump suspended, but the board said the company could not merely suspend him indefinitely. It gave the company six months to decide what to do with his accounts.
In its decision last month, the board agreed with Facebook that two of Trump’s Jan. 6 posts “severely violated” the content standards of both Facebook and Instagram.
“We love you. You’re very special,” Trump said to the rioters in the first post. In the second, he called them “great patriots” and told them to “remember this day forever.”
Those comments violated Facebook’s rules against praising or supporting people engaged in violence, the board said. Specifically, the board cited rules against “dangerous individuals and organizations” that prohibit anyone who proclaims a violent mission and ban posts that express support for those people or groups.
The two-year suspension is effective from Jan. 7, so Trump has 19 months to go.