Facebook announced on Friday that it has suspended former President Donald Trump from its platform for two years. Trump will not be allowed to use Facebook or Instagram until at least January 2023.
“We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said in a statement.
“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.
“When the suspension is eventually lifted, 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,” Clegg added.
The move follows Facebook’s decision in May to uphold its ban on Trump following the events at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. The oversight board had required a review within six months.
The company’s new announcement toward Trump reveals the growing divide between conservative Americans and the nation’s top social media companies. An outlet that once allowed users to express their free speech rights now increasingly reveals conservative bias cloaked in alleged violations of community guidelines.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently said he believes Facebook and other social media companies should be treated like utilities. The change would force social media outlets to allow free speech for all and remove liability from social media companies.
However, Thomas added such legislation would have to come from Congress. As a Justice, he would only be able to rule on existing laws.
Some are not waiting for Washington to make changes. Florida recently passed and signed a new social media anti-censorship bill designed to stop companies like Facebook from blocking political candidates and other companies. The newly-signed bill goes into effect in July, offering an interesting future for lawsuits targeting social media.
Other states have discussed similar legislation, though it is unclear how such bills would be implemented. What is clear is the need for social media to face a “reboot” that offers clear freedom of speech for users. The current pick-and-choose attitude of Facebook and others will continue to cause problems for those who hold conservative American values.
If Facebook doesn’t make some changes, it may suffer similar problems to Twitter. Following massive purging of accounts over two years ago, many users left the platform, with Twitter still far from recovering to it past high in users and engagements.
New outlets like Parler and Gab are working to fill the need for conservative-friendly social media outlets, and may have a future. However, these new companies don’t solve the problem of online bias against conservatives. The answer is not creating new, smaller companies, but seeking guidelines that treat everyone’s rights fairly.
Trump isn’t the only one under attack. It’s also anyone holding similar conservative values and posting them online.