Just days after Facebook’s oversight board decided to uphold the ban on former President Donald Trump’s account, Board Co-Chair Michael McConnell railed against the social media platform on Sunday morning for not following its own policy when it issued an indefinite ban on the former president, piling on pressure for the tech giant as it faces a six-month deadline to make Trump’s ban permanent or give a date for his return.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, McConnell, a Stanford University law professor and former U.S. circuit court judge, said Facebook’s rules “are in shambles, not transparent and… unclear,” before saying that fairness and consistency are “absolute bedrocks of freedom of expression.”
Joining a growing wave of criticism from Facebook’s independent oversight board since it upheld Trump’s posting ban on Wednesday, McConnell said it was inappropriate to impose the indefinite given that Facebook policy calls for a time-bound period of suspension or a permanent account ban.
“What we are telling Facebook is that they can’t invent penalties as they go along,” former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, another oversight board co-chair, told Axios Thursday of the decision, saying that all users should be judged by the same standard to avoid the perception that Facebook is politically biased.
Asked whether the oversight board is independent given that CEO Mark Zuckerberg appointed its four co-chairs, McConnell said the danger that the 20 members are “toadies for Facebook is just about zero” adding that many of them have spent their careers criticizing Facebook and noting that most of the decisions thus far have actually overturned the social media platform’s actions.
McConnell, however, dodged a question about whether Facebook and other “enormous” platforms, like Twitter, should be regulated or broken up, instead delegating that responsibility to Congress and saying the board’s job is to bring “some fairness and consistency” to Facebook.
“Trump bears responsibility for his own situation—he put himself in this bed, and he can sleep in it,” McConnell said Sunday of the board’s decision to uphold the former president’s account ban. “If Facebook simply let Mr Trump off the hook completely, it would not be even treatment of everyone because all of the users of the platform are subject to the same set of rules, and that includes Mr Trump.”
In one of its most high-profile decisions since its founding last May, Facebook’s oversight board announced that it would not overturn the platform’s contentious Trump ban, which was imposed on January 7 after a slew of posts made during the prior day’s Capitol riots. Republican lawmakers railed against the board, with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) promising on Twitter that Facebook would “pay” a “price” for the decision before deleting the tweet. In a statement, Trump said Facebook had “taken away” free speech “from the president of the United States.” The oversight board said Trump did violate Facebook rules when he communicated with protestors over the platform, but that the platform should have been clearer over the parameters of the ban.
What To Watch For
According to the oversight board’s ruling, Facebook has until November 5 to either make Trump’s ban permanent or set a date for the end of his suspension—something that could shine a spotlight on other platforms’ decisions to ban the former president.