Facebook suspends Trump until at least 2023

Former US president calls the move an 'insult'

Facebook on Friday suspended former US president Donald Trump from its platform until at least January 2023 in a decision that has been watched closely for signals on how the company will treat rule-breaking world leaders in the future.

The social media company's independent oversight board in May upheld its ban on Mr Trump, who was blocked from the site after the January 6 riot at the US Capitol due to concerns his posts were inciting violence.

However, the board ruled it was wrong to make the ban indefinite and set a six-month deadline to determine a "proportionate response".

Mr Trump's suspension was effective from the initial date in January and will only be reinstated if conditions permit, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said in a blog post.

"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," Mr Clegg wrote.

"We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year."

Mr Trump responded to the news with a statement on Friday afternoon.

"Facebook's ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75 million people, plus many others, who voted for us" in the 2020 US presidential election, he said.

"They shouldn't be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing," he added.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also commented on the social network's move.

"Feels pretty unlikely that the zebra’s gonna change his stripes over the next two years. We'll see," she said.

The decision came on the same day the EU and Britain launched formal antitrust investigations into Facebook's possible misuse of its vast trove of customer data.

Social media companies have grappled in recent years with how to handle world leaders and politicians that violate their guidelines.

Facebook has come under fire from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech, but it has also been criticised by Republican politicians and some free-expression advocates who see Mr Trump's ban as a disturbing act of censorship.

Mr Trump's suspension was the first time Facebook had blocked a current president, prime minister or head of state.

"Next time I'm in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife," Mr Trump said in another statement Friday, in an apparent statement he feels he'll be in the White House again.

He added, "It'll be all business!"

Facebook also plans to end a contentious policy championed by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg that automatically exempted politicians from certain moderation rules on its site.

The company said on Friday that while it will still apply this “newsworthiness” exemption to certain posts it deems to be in the public interest, even if they violate Facebook rules, it will no longer treat material posted by politicians differently from content posted by anyone else.

Updated: June 5, 2021 12:43 AM

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