Facebook's 'supreme court' to rule on decision to suspend Trump

Alex Hern
<span>Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook’s oversight board, the “supreme court” set up to have a final say on the social network’s moderation decisions, will rule on the decision to suspend Donald Trump’s account, Nick Clegg has said.

The referral will see the board, which is made up of more than 30 luminaries from around the world including former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, decide whether Facebook’s policies were correctly applied, and whether those policies respect international human rights standards more broadly.

Clegg, who is Facebook’s head of global affairs, said that Trump’s account would remain suspended until the board returns a ruling, which could take up to 90 days. “Our decision to suspend then-President Trump’s access was taken in extraordinary circumstances: a US president actively fomenting a violent insurrection designed to thwart the peaceful transition of power; five people killed; legislators fleeing the seat of democracy. This has never happened before – and we hope it will never happen again. It was an unprecedented set of events which called for unprecedented action,” he said.

Related: Facebook oversight board says it 'won't shy away' from tackling Trump-style disinformation

In an unsigned statement, the oversight board said it had accepted the case. “A decision by the board on this case will be binding on Facebook, and determine whether Trump’s suspension from access to Facebook and Instagram for an indefinite amount of time is overturned,” the board said. “Facebook has committed not to restore access to its platforms unless directed by a decision of the oversight board. Facebook must consider any accompanying policy recommendations from the board, and publicly respond to them.”

The case is not the first to be accepted by the oversight board: a range of cases were referred to it in late 2020, and it is expected to begin handing down rulings as early as next week. But it is easily the most high profile decision the board will have to make, and a firm finding would go some way to establishing the board’s power over Facebook – something the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has indicated he would be happy to see happen. Zuckerberg has regularly spoken about his discomfort at his role as the final arbiter of content on the social network, and first suggested the oversight board as a way to outsource that responsibility.