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8 Jan 2021

Will Oremus, OneZero

Commentary: Facebook chucked its own rulebook to ban Trump

After four years of accommodating, tolerating, and occasionally wrist-slapping Donald Trump, Facebook chose the morning after a riot breached the U.S. Capitol to suspend the outgoing president from its platform... An insurrection at the Capitol certainly underscores the argument that Trump’s presence on Facebook and other major social networks constitutes a clear and present threat to American democracy... Yet Facebook’s “indefinite” ban on Trump marks an overnight reversal of the policy on Trump and other political leaders that the social network has spent the past four years honing, justifying, and defending. The unprecedented move, which lacks a clear basis in any of Facebook’s previously stated policies, highlights for the millionth time that the dominant platforms are quite literally making up the rules of online speech as they go along. As I wrote in 2019, there’s just one golden rule of content moderation that every platform follows: If a policy becomes too controversial, change it.

... Employee pressure may well have factored into Thursday’s decision to suspend Trump indefinitely. It’s worth noting that the suspension also came hours after Congress certified Joe Biden as president, dealing a seemingly decisive blow to Trump’s quixotic effort to keep power. Bending its rules for powerful leaders has often appeared to be part of Facebook’s strategy, in the United States as in the Philippines, Brazil, and India. That Zuckerberg suspended Trump the moment he lost his last modicum of political leverage, as opposed to the moment he was no longer president, is telling: This was never about respect for the office of the presidency, it was about deference to power.

Addressing employees at a company meeting Thursday, Facebook executives essentially admitted that the decision to suspend Trump was ad hoc, the New York Times’ Mike Isaac reported. Facebook has not responded to an inquiry from OneZero as to what rule the company was enforcing.

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USA: 2020 Presidential election, business & human rights

Business leaders condemn violence at US Capitol