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Op-Ed: Facebook community standards vs Trump — You decide

This is more than a bit weird. Facebook has very explicit guidelines for community standards, and they’re worth reading.

Facebook oversight board affirms Trump ban -- for now
Former US president Donald Trump reacted angrily to the decision to extend his Facebook ban, calling it a "total disgrace" - Copyright AFP Sifatullah ZAHIDI
Former US president Donald Trump reacted angrily to the decision to extend his Facebook ban, calling it a "total disgrace" - Copyright AFP Sifatullah ZAHIDI

The Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) has called for a “policy” regarding banning people from Facebook in its review of the Trump suspension.  There are more than a few basic issues with this view.

In a ponderous, not to say downright turgid, document, FOB has apparently missed a few points about Facebook basic rules. While stating the ban was appropriate, FOB then descended into a much-less-than-clear argument that Facebook should say why the ban was in place.

This is more than a bit weird. Facebook has very explicit guidelines for community standards, and they’re worth reading. (Also note that FB’s community standards are highly evolved and adjusted over decades.)

These standards cover:

  • Violence and criminal behaviour
  • Safety
  • Objectionable Content
  • Integrity and Authenticity
  • Respecting Intellectual Property
  • Content-related requests and decisions

There are too many possible issues related to Trump which could quite literally fill a book. The issue is whether Facebook’s standards are sufficient basis for the FOB decision. These standards are Facebook’s policies on specific issues. Let’s look at Objectionable Content as a simple example.

There’s a lot to consider here. Given Trump’s well-documented conduct and statements in office and above all, his own published materials. Did Trump breach these standards?

For example – Did Trump’s repeated attacks on individuals and immigrant groups constitute a breach of Objectionable Content standards regarding hate speech? If so, why does FOB require further qualifications to the ban?

Either you have community standards and enforce them, or you don’t

It is extremely hard to fathom FOB’s logic here. Are they saying there are no policies? There are. These standards are supposed to apply to all Facebook users. What’s so incomprehensible about that?

There’s another point to be made here. Terms of Use aren’t exactly new on any website. Most sites have them. The bottom line is that users can be blocked for breaching any terms of use.

Some points:

  • Facebook is a private company and a service provider.
  • It has the inherent right to decide with whom it does or does not do business.
  • It is under no obligation at all to users to publish anything it deems unacceptable and it routinely doesn’t publish things on that basis.
  • Community standards are benchmark standards for users on any site.
  • Hate speech isn’t “free speech” by accepted legal definition. In most countries, it’s a criminal offense.
  • Many Facebook users have been screaming long and loud since 2016 about the appalling quality of political content on the site,
  • Trump is responsible for his actions like any other user.

So, FOB – What the hell are you talking about? The standards are the policies.

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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