Wednesday 5 May 2021 5:59 pm

DEBATE: Was Facebook's Oversight Board right to uphold the ban on Donald Trump?

and Connor Tomlinson
Connor Tomlinson is a Young Voices UK contributor
Anna-Sophie Harling is the Managing Director for Europe at NewsGuard.,

Anna-Sophie Harling, Head of Europe at NewsGuard, says YES

This question of the Oversight Board’s decision is, in itself, problematic.

The Board, a panel of paid advisors hired by Facebook to do high-level content moderation, only has as much credibility as we lend it. As a private company, Facebook is well within its rights to deplatform Donald Trump — but we’re being distracted from the more important question: should a social media platform have this much unilateral power over political discourse and online communication?

The Oversight Board’s decision came with a recommendation delivered in no uncertain terms: that Facebook needs to address the way its “design and policy” choices spread and amplified misinformation that led to an insurrection. According to the Board, Facebook needs to embrace a “safety by design” approach by prioritising user safety over engagement at all costs. 

This amounts to an acknowledgment, by the entity Facebook itself designed to address these kinds of issues, that social media giants are entirely incapable of regulating themselves. Platforms need to do more than simply ban accounts — they need to integrate transparent, accountable safety tools that arm users against misinformation and related harms.

Connor Tomlinson, a Young Voices UK contributor, says NO

Facebook’s upholding of its suspension of President Trump is unjust.

Trump urged his supporters on January 6th to “peacefully and patriotically make (their) voices heard” on matters of misconduct in the 2020 election. 

The President also released a video message after the Capitol occupation began, telling them to “go home in peace”. It was a condemnation of the violence which Facebook saw fit to remove shortly after it was posted. 

The blanket censoring of the former President deviates from the most important priority: protecting freedom of speech. Facebook has legitimate cause for concern when misinformation is published. However, its knee jerk reactions to Trump’s statements were political. 

The platform removed a video of Trump for propagating “harmful Covid misinformation” after he said children are “almost immune” to the disease. There is bountiful evidence of the low rates of transmission among children. The reopening of schools in the UK did not cause cases to spike for just this reason. 

Mark Zuckerberg should stick by his own stated principles and ensure that no private platform should be censoring the speech of elected officials.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.