Facebook Inc on Friday suspended former U.S. President Donald Trump from its platform until at least January 2023 and announced changes to how it will treat rule-breaking world leaders in the future.
Facebook said the suspension, which will last at least two years from Jan. 7 when he was initially blocked after the Capitol riot, will only be lifted if the risk to public safety has receded. Trump called the Facebook suspension "an insult" to Americans who voted for him.
This new timeline denies Trump a major social media megaphone ahead of the November 2022 national midterm elections, when his party will be competing for Congressional seats. However, it means he may be able to return to Facebook well before the next presidential election in late 2024.
Trump has been permanently banned by Twitter and remains suspended by Alphabet's YouTube after the riot. The former president, who this week shut down his recently-launched blog, has teased plans to launch his own platform but his team has given little detail.
"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," Facebook's head of global affairs Nick Clegg said in the post.
Facebook's independent oversight board in May upheld the company's unprecedented block on Trump, which was enforced because the company said his posts were inciting violence. However, the board ruled it was wrong to make the ban indefinite and called for a "proportionate response."
Trump said in a statement Friday, "Facebook's ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can't take this abuse anymore!"
Facebook said it would work with experts to decide when the public safety risk had subsided for Trump to be restored to its platforms. It said it would evaluate factors including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest.
It also said there would be a set of escalating sanctions that would be triggered if Trump broke further rules that could lead to his permanent removal.
Social media companies have grappled in recent years with how to handle world leaders and politicians who violate their guidelines. Facebook and Twitter Inc have long held that world leaders, politicians and elected officials should be given greater latitude on their platforms than ordinary users.
In a major reversal, Facebook said Friday it would end its policy that shields politicians from some content moderation rules because their content is considered "newsworthy." It will also disclose when it does use this exemption.
However, a Facebook spokesman confirmed that politicians' posts would still be exempt from third-party fact-checking. Some of these policy changes were originally reported by The Verge.
Facebook has come under fire from those who think it should abandon its hands-off approach to political speech. But it has also been criticized by those, including Republican lawmakers and some free-expression advocates, who saw the Trump ban as a disturbing act of censorship.
The announcements came on the same day as Europe and Britain launched formal antitrust investigations into whether Facebook misuses its vast trove of customer data.