Last month, Facebook’s Oversight Board determined that “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension” on Donald Trump. On Friday, Facebook finally acted upon their recommendations and announced that its suspension of Trump will continue at least until January 7, 2023—which would be two years after his initial suspension over false allegations that he incited the Capitol riot.
We are today announcing new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this, and we are confirming the time-bound penalty consistent with those protocols which we are applying to Mr. Trump’s accounts. Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.
But that doesn’t mean they will lift the suspension come 2023. At that time, Facebook will evaluate whether Trump still poses a “risk to public safety.”
“At the end of this period, we will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded,” explained Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of Global Affairs. “We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”
Whenever the suspension is lifted, “there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.”
So, why two years? Here’s how Clegg explains why they chose that particular length of time:
In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself.
January 7, 2023, also happens to be after the 2022 midterm elections, and also around the time that we can expect challengers to Joe Biden (or Kamala Harris) to start forming exploratory committees for the 2024 election season.
Does that seem like a coincidence? Is Facebook using its new guidelines to keep Trump off its platform until after the midterms? Perhaps as a means to limit his influence on the outcome? Or is this just a way to kick the can down the road to act on whether Trump will run for president again?
President Trump reacted to the ruling in a statement. “Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election,” he said. “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!”