Press Release: Oversight Board Gives Final Decision on Trump Back to Facebook

For Immediate Release
May 5, 2021
Contact: Solice Scott, 202.244.4450, [email protected]

Washington, DC— The Following Statement Issued From Shireen Mitchell on Facebook Oversight Board Gives Final Decision on Trump Back to Facebook

Since the January incident at the Capitol ahead of President Biden’s inauguration, Facebook’s “Oversight Board,” started and funded by Facebook, was tasked with deciding whether Trump should be allowed to return to the platform. The board ruled to uphold his suspension, however, consider an indefinite ban to be inappropriate and have given Facebook six months to make a final decision. 

Shireen Mitchell, founder of Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc. (SOVAW) is a board member of the “Real Facebook Oversight Board” who has been asking for social media platforms such as Facebook to be on one accord with their policies . There is some confusion between the Supreme Court style “Oversight Board” that Mark Zuckerberg launched in the Fall of 2019 and the “Real Facebook Oversight Board,” started by experts in journalism, civil rights, academia and politics in September 2020. Notably, the Real Facebook Oversight Board was a direct response to Facebook’s board, which not only opted out from moderating content related to the U.S. election season until it ended, but has also received recent criticism on whether they can remain non-objective and make positive rulings on content policies and decisions. The recent decision has also called into question the differences between what it will take for someone to be banned versus suspended. That penalty needs to be clarified to determine whether former President Trump will eventually be able to return to the platform. Whatever happens, it will undoubtedly set an important precedent.

Facebook has consistently allowed politicians and world leaders to misinform and target their own citizens, through paid political ads as well as general posts. This decision indicates that the Oversight Board does not have the power to remove anyone from Facebook,” said Mitchell. “They are not upholding a ban, they are upholding a suspension where they are asking Facebook to define a penalty because the status of ‘indefinite’ is not clear in their moderation process. However, those that are impacted by hate and violence on the platform are also held in suspense on whether they will be protected or not. The Oversight Board and Facebook are demonstrating that they consistently put safety and violence on the same scale as freedom of speech, effectively turning a blind eye when individuals in power cause harm.”

A recent exposé published by The Guardian cited a former Facebook employee who discussed a loophole that has allowed various abuses to go on, despite their harm to the larger community. Facebook’s various leaders offer inconsistent messaging to different audiences about the level of accountability the brand has to the effects from the 2020 election in the U.S., demonstrating how unclear their practices and perspective as a brand can be.

Since 2013, Mitchell has addressed laws and policies that lack protections for women, in particular women of color, and has reported extensively on the impact of Facebook’s policies and lack of action. Mitchell’s participation in this Board is an important move toward holding Facebook’s leadership accountable, presently and in the future. Their enablement of the January 6 insurrection should also be noted as being irresponsible and harmful to the community. Their platform is more than just a company founded in the U.S., it is a company that has made promises and has broken many of them to users domestically and the world over.

Like her colleagues, Mitchell is calling for more government regulation to rein in the power and influence that social media platforms currently have over U.S. politics. She is also calling for Facebook to hold political leaders accountable, stressing that continuing to wash their hands of decision-making could absolve leaders like Zuckerberg and enable the incitement of violence, hate speech, and disinformation on their platform. Not only should Facebook be held accountable but the existence of its Oversight Board be re-evaluated considering its inability to effect significant change. 

Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc is a nonprofit that addresses inadequate laws and policies that lack protections for women in particular women of color. We focus on online violence against women, laws and policy changes needed at the local, state, and federal levels. We also focus on technology and social media company’s accountability. SOVAW serves as a resource of services and options for women and women of color, based on their level of targeted harassment or violence. We report on the diverse issues and impacts for those who are willing to share their stories. This includes digital voter suppression. We are a nonpartisan organization.