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USA: Facebook Oversight Board decision to ban Trump doesn’t solve disastrous handling of hateful and violent speech

Responding to the Facebook Oversight Board voting today to uphold Donald Trump’s ban from the platform after his account was suspended four months ago for inciting violence and stating that Facebook must reassess the penalty because it imposed it “indefinitely”, Michael Kleinman, the Director of the Silicon Valley Initiative at Amnesty Tech said:

“Donald Trump repeatedly encouraged violence and disorder by his supporters affecting journalists, activists, faith communities and others using his social media platform. While the Oversight Board upheld Facebook’s January 7 decision to restrict Trump’s access to Facebook and Instagram, it criticized the ‘standardless’ and open-ended nature of the suspension.

“Crucially, the decision doesn’t solve any of the fundamental problems with Facebook’s disastrous handling of hateful and violent speech on their platform. The Oversight Board’s decisions only apply to specific cases – and while it can offer recommendations, it lacks the power to change Facebook’s overall approach to such content, particularly its inconsistent application of its Terms of Service globally.

We are long past the point when we can rely on Facebook or any other social media platform to police itself
Director of the Silicon Valley Initiative at Amnesty International USA

“Facebook and other social media companies have enormous power when deciding what can and cannot be said on their platforms. They have a responsibility to protect people from content on their platforms that incites violence or hatred. Yet Facebook’s surveillance-based business model can incentivize the spread of hateful and violent speech, which drives user engagement. The Board does not have a say about how Facebook’s recommendation algorithms work to demote or privilege certain content or ads, and today’s decision does not change that fact.

“We are long past the point when we can rely on Facebook or any other social media platform to police itself. Urgent government regulation is needed to tackle unaccountable algorithms and a core business model based on invasive surveillance and profiling.”

Background

After the storming of the Capitol, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, announced that Donald Trump would be blocked from using both Facebook and Instagram “indefinitely” for violating its policy by using the platform “to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” The case was then handed to the board for review.

The Facebook Oversight Board hears appeals from users on Facebook’s content moderation decisions.

For more information or to arrange an interview contact  press@amnesty.org or call +44 (0) 20 7413 5566.