The Facebook Oversight Board, the quasi-judicial organization that Facebook set up to review tough moderation choices, announced today that its decision on former President Trump’s ban from Facebook and Instagram will arrive “in the coming weeks.” The decision, which was initially supposed to take 90 days, has been pushed back so the board can review the more than 9,000 comments it’s received about the case.
Facebook banned Trump from its platforms after the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg writing that “the risks of allowing President Trump to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” Trump has remained banned from the services, and his attempts to appear in videos on his children’s pages have also been blocked. But the ban was always “indefinite,” and it’s now up to Facebook’s new Oversight Board to make a call about when and how Trump might be allowed to return, if ever.
The review of the decision to block the former President is a momentous occasion for the Oversight Board. The board is staffed by an international panel of lawyers and speech experts and is supposed to offer an independent, binding assessment of Facebook moderation decisions. (Anyone can appeal to the board, but it’s not a guarantee any case will be taken.) The Board has already ruled on a handful of cases — some in surprising ways — but a decision to either reinstate Trump or keep him off Facebook will be heavily scrutinized with pressure on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to overrule that decision no matter what. If this massive experiment in platform governance is to succeed, this is the first major test, with enormous implications.
In the meantime, at least they’re reading the comments.