Former President Donald Trump’s indefinite ban on Facebook has been reduced to a two-year suspension that will end on January 7, 2023.
Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, announced Friday that the company will re-evaluate Trump’s ban to “assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.”
If Trump is reinstated and again violates Facebook’s rules, the company will impose a “strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” that could result in a permanent ban.
The suspension comes as part of a broader shift in how Facebook treats “newsworthy” posts that violate its policies, as well as political speech. Some infringing content that is “newsworthy or important to the public interest” will be allowed to remain on the social network. However, as The Verge reported yesterday, it will start publishing the “rare instances” when the newsworthy exemption is used.
Furthermore, politicians will be subject to the same content rules as other users in the future, a sharp departure from Facebook’s previous policy, which largely shielded elected officials from such enforcement.
When we evaluate content for newsworthiness, we will not treat content posted by politicians any differently than content posted by anyone else,” Clegg wrote in a blog post.
“Instead, we will simply apply our newsworthiness balancing test to all content in the same way, determining whether the content’s public interest value outweighs the potential risk of harm by leaving it up.”
Previously, Facebook executives argued that political speech was inherently in the public interest and that private companies should only intervene in extreme cases. Because of this position, Trump and other elected officials were able to use the platform in ways that normal users would be penalized for under Facebook’s content rules.
By potentially subjecting politicians to harsher moderation in the future, the company risks infuriating governments that have already begun to threaten tech companies for censoring political speech.
In a statement to The Verge on Friday, Trump described Facebook’s decision as a “insult” to his supporters who voted in the “rigged” presidential election, adding that the company “shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing.”
The changes were made in response to a request from the Oversight Board, a group of human rights experts that Facebook funded to make decisions on content decisions.
The board requested that Facebook reconsider its recommendations for clarifying the status of Trump’s account, as well as changing how it treated politicians differently than other users.
In response to the board, Facebook also revealed more information about its secretive strikes system for content that violates its rules but does not warrant immediate suspension. Receiving enough strikes can result in an account being permanently banned, but Facebook hasn’t previously detailed how strikes work because it was concerned that doing so would encourage people to game the system.
While the specifics of strikes remain unknown, Facebook has revealed some key information, including the fact that you can receive a strike for approving violating content on a page you manage, and that all strikes expire after one year.