Facebook announced Friday that former President Donald Trump would be suspended from its platform until at least January 7th, 2023 – two years from when he was initially suspended.
Facebook (FB) said it will then assess the circumstances to see if he should be allowed back on.
The move guarantees Trump won’t be able to post from his Facebook account, which had tens of millions of followers, prior to the 2022 midterm elections. But Facebook’s announcement does leave open the possibility his suspension could lift ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president for global affairs, said in a post Friday that once the two years is up, Facebook “will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded. We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest. If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”
Clegg framed the two-year suspension, which came after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, as “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.”
Clegg also announced new rules for “enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this.” The change comes in the wake of the unprecedented step the company took of indefinitely suspending Trump in January – and after its independent oversight board rebuked it for the arbitrary nature of that suspension.
In a statement, Trump called the decision an “insult” to his supporters.
Politicians have typically been given leeway on Facebook because the company operated on the assumption that their posts were newsworthy and part of the public debate. As a result, the company did not apply its regular rules to their posts. But now Facebook will no longer assume newsworthiness for the posts of world leaders.
“When we assess content for newsworthiness, we will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else,” Clegg wrote in the post.
However, the company will not be ending its newsworthiness exception entirely. The company will continue to use the exception, but, in another significant change, will begin explicitly disclosing the “rare instances” when the exception has been applied. Facebook is also providing more transparency into the process it uses to count strikes against accounts and pages posting content that violates its community standards.
The company is not reversing its controversial policy of exempting politicians from fact checking on its platform, a source familiar with the plan told CNN Business.
Facebook also said it will not follow through on an important recommendation from the Oversight Board, that it review Facebook’s role in fueling the false election fraud narratives and conspiracy theories that ultimately led to the violence at the US Capitol.
“We continually review our policies and practices in the face of evolving threats,” the company said in a response to the Oversight Board. “Ultimately, though, we believe that independent researchers and our democratically elected officials are best positioned to complete an objective review of these events.”
The company also said it plans to develop a special crisis playbook that it will activate in times of emergency or in novel situations where its existing policies are insufficient to prevent imminent harm. The so-called Crisis Policy Protocol, it said, will help the company determine when to apply its more nuanced, context-specific policies.
CNN’s Brian Fung contributed reporting.