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Facebook oversight board to announce whether Trump may rejoin platforms

Katie Harbath

WASHINGTON (SBG) — Will it be a thumbs up? Or a thumbs down?

Most experts agree whatever the decision, the whole world will be watching, and the potential is huge to set policy for the future.

“For how not just tech companies, but media outlets and others around the world handle not only world leaders but other elected officials,” said Katie Harbath, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

Harbath is also the former public policy director at Facebook and called the decision “a trial and error of a new set of due process.”

The decision is expected Wednesday on whether to allow former President Donald Trump to rejoin platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and comes after he was “suspended indefinitely” following his speech and posts related to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, a move criticized even by Trump foe, German chancellor Angela Markel and the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds of free speech.

Others charged the social media giant with hypocrisy after not taking down posts that led to violence in countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and India, and allowing the political leaders in the Philippines and Brazil to remain.

FILE – President Donald Trump speaks to crowd before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, file photo. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez, File)

 

“The board is going to be looking the elements of protecting free speech, particularly political speech online, and also where that intersects with inciting violence,” Harbath said.

The board is made up of 20 members: lawyers, academics, and human rights advocates, and is viewed as a supreme court for Facebook that will make policy recommendations the company may adopt. But Facebook says whatever decision the board makes about the former president will stand.

This decision will come at a time lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering what type of action, if any, to take against the Big Tech companies to reign in their power, and whichever way the Facebook board rules could play a role in what they decide.

For years, Republicans have accused social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter of censoring speech by members of their party.

“I’ll just cut to the chase — Big Tech’s out to get conservatives,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said during a July 29, 2020 hearing.

Many Democrats believe the companies are too big and have too much power.

Some of that power is now in the hands of an independent board.

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