Facebook Inc on Friday suspended former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for two years which lapses until 2023.
The social media giant said it found Mr Trump’s actions on Facebook during the U.S. Capitol riots were a “severe violation of our rules.”
He was barred indefinitely from both sites, but last month Facebook’s Oversight Board criticised the open-ended penalty.
Mr Trump’s suspension comes after a Facebook oversight board criticized the initial indefinite suspension slammed on the former president’s accounts in January over the controversial posts he made which were deemed to have incited riots at the U.S. Capitol, the country’s legislative headquarters.
The two-year suspension is effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year, the company said Friday in a statement signed by its Vice President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg.
Mr Clegg noted that Facebook was implementing “heightened penalties” for public figures who violate its protocols. He added the company will be ending its policy shielding politicians from some content moderation rules.
“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 said.
“In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself.”
When Mr Trump’s suspension is eventually lifted, Mr Clegg added, “there will be a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future, up to and including permanent removal of his pages and accounts.”
Facebook’s action has triggered firestorm among Americans with Liberals saying the expiration of the ban will coincide with a year to the nation’s next general elections, one that Mr Trump has vowed to make a comeback at.
Mr Trump, a Republican, lost the election in 2020 to President Joe Biden.
Conservatives have also raised questions about the power wielded by the big tech companies and how their bans may impact free speech.
Last month, Mr Trump himself slammed Facebook for the ban which he described as “a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country.”
“Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” Mr Trump said in a statement.
“These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”
Mr Clegg said Facebook was anticipating pushback from the former president and conservatives as “We know that any penalty we apply — or choose not to apply — will be controversial.”
“We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide — but our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible,” he said.
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