An election commission would differ from the Oversight Board in one key way, the people said. While the Oversight Board waits for Facebook to remove a post or an account and then reviews that action, the election commission would proactively provide guidance without the company having made an earlier call, they said.

Tatenda Musapatike, who previously worked on elections at Facebook and now runs a nonprofit voter registration organization, said that many have lost faith in the company’s abilities to work with political campaigns. But the election commission proposal was “a good step,” she said, because “they’re doing something and they’re not saying we alone can handle it.”

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Facebook Oversight Board Tells Zuckerberg He’s the Decider on Trump

When Mr. Zuckerberg first pitched the idea of a “Facebook Supreme Court” several years ago, he promoted it as a way to make the company’s governance more democratic, by forming an independent body of subject matter experts and giving them the power to hear appeals from users.

“I think in any kind of good-functioning democratic system, there needs to be a way to appeal,” Mr. Zuckerberg told Ezra Klein in a 2018 Vox podcast.

The oversight board also served another purpose. For years, Mr. Zuckerberg had been called in as Facebook’s policy judge of last resort. (In 2018, for example, he got personally involved in the decision to bar Alex Jones, the Infowars conspiracy theorist.) But high-profile moderation decisions were often unpopular, and the blowback was often fierce. If it worked, the oversight board would take responsibility for making the platform’s most contentious content decisions, while shielding Mr. Zuckerberg and his policy team from criticism.

It’s hard to imagine a dispute Mr. Zuckerberg would be more eager to avoid than the one about Mr. Trump. The former president rode Facebook to the White House in 2016, then tormented the company by repeatedly skirting its rules and daring executives to punish him for it. When they finally did, Republicans raged at Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants, accusing them of politically motivated censorship.

Facebook faced plenty of pressure in the other direction, too — both from Democrats and civil rights groups and from employees, many of whom saw Mr. Trump’s presence on Facebook as fundamentally incompatible with their goal of reducing harmful misinformation and hate speech. No matter what Mr. Zuckerberg and his team decided, they were sure to inflame the online speech wars and make more enemies.

Before the decision on Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives did everything they could to convince a skeptical public that the oversight board would have real teeth. They funded the group through a legally independent trust, filled it with hyper-credentialed experts and pledged to abide by its rulings.

But for all its claims of legitimacy, the oversight board has always had a Potemkin quality to it. Its leaders were selected by Facebook, and its members are (handsomely) paid out of the company’s pockets. Its mandate is limited, and none of its rulings are binding, in any meaningful sense of that word. If Mr. Zuckerberg decided tomorrow to ignore the board’s advice and reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, nothing — no act of Congress, no judicial writ, no angry letter from Facebook shareholders — could stop him.

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Nick Clegg Steers Facebook’s Trump Decision

Facebook wanted Mr. Clegg to help repair its relationships with regulators, political leaders and the media after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when data improperly pulled from Facebook was used to create voter profiles. Mr. Clegg’s international experience and comfort in five languages — English, Spanish, French, German and Dutch — appealed to the American-centric company.

Friends said Mr. Clegg had initially been reluctant to join Facebook, one of the world’s most polarizing corporations. But he wanted to be back at the center of important political and policy debates. In a memo outlining how he envisioned the role, he argued that it was unsustainable for a private company like Facebook, rather than democratically elected governments, to have so much power, especially on speech-related issues.

“My advice was strongly to go for it,” said Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, whom Mr. Clegg spoke with before taking the job, “because you’re going to be part of one of the most powerful companies in the world at a moment of enormous change in the world, and when technology is at the heart of that change.”

Inside Facebook, where Mr. Zuckerberg leans on a group of friends and early employees for counsel, Mr. Clegg earned the trust of his new boss. At the company’s headquarters, where proximity to Mr. Zuckerberg is power, Mr. Clegg’s desk was placed nearby. He orchestrated a trip through Europe with Mr. Zuckerberg, meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels and President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris.

Since Mr. Clegg’s arrival, Facebook has shifted some of its policy positions. It now appears more accepting of regulation and higher taxes. He overcame reluctance from Mr. Zuckerberg and others in the company to ban political ads in the weeks before Election Day last year. And he was the main internal supporter for recently announced product changes that give users more control over what posts they see in their Facebook feeds.

“He has a track record of knowing what it’s like to work inside a cabinet that needs to make decisions quickly and move at the speed of a country, or in this case a platform,” said Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, who worked with Mr. Clegg on the user-control changes.

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Lawmakers slam Facebook Oversight Board’s decision to uphold Trump ban.

Lawmakers lashed out at the Facebook Oversight Board’s ruling on Wednesday to uphold the social network’s ban on former President Donald J. Trump, at least for now.

Driving the discontent was that the Oversight Board, a quasi-court that confers over some of Facebook’s content decisions, did not make a black-and-white decision about the case. Mr. Trump had been blocked from the social network in January after his comments online and elsewhere incited the storming of the Capitol building.

While the Oversight Board said on Wednesday that Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump at the time because of the risk of further violence, it also said the company needed to revisit its action. The board said Facebook’s move was “a vague, standardless penalty” without defined limits, which needed to be reviewed again for a final decision on Mr. Trump’s account in six months.

That angered both Republicans and Democrats. Republican lawmakers have pointed to Mr. Trump’s ouster by Facebook, Twitter and others as evidence of an alleged anti-conservative campaign by tech companies, calling the decisions a dangerous precedent for censorship of political figures.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, tweeted that the board’s decision on Wednesday was “disgraceful” and warned it could have dangerous ripple effects.

“For every liberal celebrating Trump’s social media ban, if the Big Tech oligarchs can muzzle the former President, what’s to stop them from silencing you?” Mr. Cruz said in his tweet.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, said in a statement that the move showed that “it’s clear that Mark Zuckerberg views himself as the arbiter of free speech.” Republican members of the House judiciary committee tweeted that the decision was “pathetic,” and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member, tweeted about Facebook: “Break them up.”

Democrats, also dissatisfied with the murky decision, took aim at how Facebook can be used to spread lies. Frank Pallone, the chairman of the House energy and commerce committee, tweeted: “Donald Trump has played a big role in helping Facebook spread disinformation, but whether he’s on the platform or not, Facebook and other social media platforms with the same business model will find ways to highlight divisive content to drive advertising revenues.”

Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado and the ranking member of the House antitrust subcommittee, accused the Oversight Board of political bias.

“Facebook made an arbitrary decision based on its political preferences, and the Oversight Board, organized and funded by Facebook, reaffirmed its decision,” he said.

But scholars who support free speech welcomed the decision. They have warned that as social media companies become more active in determining what stays online and what doesn’t, that could potentially lead to a slippery slope where tech giants have too much sway over digital speech.

“The Facebook Oversight Board has said what many critics noted — the ban of former President Trump, while perhaps justified, was worrisome in its open-endedness and lack of process,” said Gautam Hans, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. “To the degree that the decision draws attention to how ad hoc, manipulable, and arbitrary Facebook’s own content policies get enforced, I welcome it.”

Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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Facebook’s Ban of Trump Upheld by Oversight Board

SAN FRANCISCO — A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers ruled on Wednesday to uphold the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court to deliberate the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the suspension.

But the board also said that Facebook’s penalty of an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to make its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.

“Our sole job is to hold this extremely powerful organization, Facebook, to be held accountable,” Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, said on a call with reporters. The decision “did not meet these standards,” he said.

Twitter and YouTube had also cut off Mr. Trump in January after the insurrection at the Capitol building, saying the risk of harm and the potential for violence that he created was too great.

But while Mr. Trump’s Facebook account remains suspended for now, it does not mean that he will not be able to return to the social network at all once the company reviews its action. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump had unveiled a new site, “From the desk of Donald J. Trump,” to communicate with his supporters. It looked much like a Twitter feed, complete with posts written by Mr. Trump that could be shared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Mr. Trump’s continuing suspension from Facebook gave conservatives, who have long accused the social media companies of suppressing right-wing voices, new fuel against the platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has testified in Congress several times in recent years about whether the social network has shown bias against conservative political views. He has denied it.

In a tweet, the Republican members of the House judiciary committee said of the board’s decision, “Pathetic.”

Mr. Zuckerberg has said that he does not wish his company to be “the arbiter of truth” in social discourse, Facebook has become increasingly active about the kinds of content it allows. To prevent the spread of misinformation, the company has cracked down on QAnon conspiracy theory groups, election falsehoods and anti-vaccination content in recent months, before culminating in the blocking of Mr. Trump in January.

“This case has dramatic implications for the future of speech online because the public and other platforms are looking at how the oversight board will handle what is a difficult controversy that will arise again around the world,” said Nate Persily, a professor at Stanford University’s law school.

He added, “President Trump has pushed the envelope about what is permissible speech on these platforms and he has set the outer limits such that if you are unwilling to go after him, you are allowing a large amount of incitement and hate speech and disinformation online that others are going to propagate.”

In a statement, Facebook said it was “pleased” that the board recognized that its barring of Mr. Trump in January was justified. The company added that it would consider the ruling and “determine an action that is clear and proportionate.”

Mr. Trump’s case is the most prominent that the Facebook Oversight Board, which was conceived in 2018, has handled. The board, which is made up of 20 journalists, activists and former politicians, reviews and adjudicates the company’s most contested content moderation decisions. Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly referred to it as the “Facebook Supreme Court.”

But while the panel is positioned as independent, it was founded and funded by Facebook and has no legal or enforcement authority. Critics have been skeptical of the board’s autonomy and have said it gives Facebook the ability to punt on difficult decisions.

revoke Section 230, a legal shield that protects companies like Facebook from liability for what users post.

privately with Mr. Trump.

The politeness ended on Jan. 6. Hours before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Trump used Facebook and other social media to try to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election, which he had lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Trump wrote on Facebook, “Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore!”

Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Trump was barred from the platform indefinitely. While his Facebook page has remained up, it has been dormant. His last Facebook post, on Jan. 6, read, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence!”

Cecilia Kang contributed reporting from Washington.

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Facebook panel will reveal on Wednesday whether Trump will regain his megaphone.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent and international panel that was created and funded by the social network, plans to announce on Wednesday whether former President Donald J. Trump will be able to return to the platform that has been a critical megaphone for him and his tens of millions of followers.

The decision will be closely watched as a template for how private companies that run social networks handle political speech, including the misinformation spread by political leaders.

Mr. Trump was indefinitely locked out of Facebook on Jan. 7 after he used his social media accounts to incite a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol a day earlier. Mr. Trump had declined to accept his election defeat, saying the election had been stolen from him.

At the time that Facebook barred Mr. Trump, the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote in a post: “We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

the company referred the case of Mr. Trump to Facebook’s Oversight Board for a final decision on whether the ban should be permanent. Facebook and the board’s members have said the panel’s decisions are binding, but critics are skeptical of the board’s independence. The panel, critics said, is a first-of-its-kind Supreme Court-like entity on online speech, funded by a private company with a poor track record of enforcing its own rules.

Facebook’s approach to political speech has been inconsistent. In October 2019, Mr. Zuckerberg declared the company would not fact check political speech and said that even lies by politicians deserved a place on the social network because it was in the public’s interest to hear all ideas by political leaders. But Mr. Trump’s comments on Jan. 6 were different, the company has said, because they incited violence and threatened the peaceful transition of power in elections.

On Monday, Mr. Trump continued to deny the election results.

“The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!,” he said in an emailed statement.

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Is an Activist’s Pricey House News? Facebook Alone Decides.

The Post’s editorial board wrote that Facebook and other social media companies “claim to be ‘neutral’ and that they aren’t making editorial decisions in a cynical bid to stave off regulation or legal accountability that threatens their profits. But they do act as publishers — just very bad ones.”

Of course, it takes one to know one. The Post, always a mix of strong local news, great gossip and spun-up conservative politics, is making a bid for the title of worst newspaper in America right now. It has run a string of scary stories about Covid vaccines, the highlight of which was a headline linking vaccines to herpes, part of a broader attempt to extend its digital reach. Great stuff, if you’re mining for traffic in anti-vax Telegram groups. The piece on the Black Lives Matter activist that Facebook blocked was pretty weak, too. It insinuated, without evidence, that her wealth was ill-gotten, and mostly just sneered at how “the self-described Marxist last month purchased a $1.4 million home.”

But then, you’ve probably hate-read a story about a person you disliked buying an expensive house. When Lachlan Murdoch, the co-chairman of The Post’s parent company, bought the most expensive house in Los Angeles, for instance, it received wide and occasionally sneering coverage. Maybe Mr. Murdoch didn’t know he could get the stories deleted by Facebook.

Facebook doesn’t keep a central register of news articles it expunges on these grounds, though the service did block a Daily Mail article about the Black Lives Matter activist’s real estate as well. And it does not keep track of how many news articles it has blocked, though it regularly deletes offending posts by individuals, including photos of the home of the Fox News star Tucker Carlson, a Facebook employee said.

What Facebook’s clash with The Post really revealed — and what surprised me — is that the platform does not defer, at all, to news organizations on questions of news judgment. A decision by The Post, or The New York Times, that someone’s personal wealth is newsworthy carries no weight in the company’s opaque enforcement mechanisms. Nor, Facebook’s lawyer said, does a more nebulous and reasonable human judgment that the country has felt on edge for the last year and that a Black activist’s concern for her own safety was justified. (The activist didn’t respond to my inquiry but, in an Instagram post, called the reporting on her personal finances “doxxing” and a “tactic of terror.”)

The point of Facebook’s bureaucracy is to replace human judgment with a kind of strict corporate law. “The policy in this case prioritizes safety and privacy, and this enforcement shows how difficult these trade-offs can be,” the company’s vice president for communications, Tucker Bounds, said. “To help us understand if our policies are in the right place, we are referring the policy to the Oversight Board.”

The board is a promising kind of supercourt that has yet to set much meaningful policy. So this rule could eventually change. (Get your stories deleted while you can!)

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