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Trump, Republicans express outrage over extension of Facebook ban

Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the ban on former president Donald Trump, a test case of social media companies’ power to moderate inflammatory speech. (Video: Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

Former president Donald Trump and other Republicans expressed outrage Wednesday over the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision to extend Trump’s ban from the social media platform — and at least one House lawmaker threatened that the company will “pay the price.”

The 20-member Oversight Board, which is largely independent and funded by the social network, ruled that Trump’s comments on the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by his supporters “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.” The binding decision noted that the former president called the rioters “patriots” and “special,” and told them to “remember this day forever.”

A pro-Trump mob intent on stopping the congressional affirmation of President Biden’s win stormed the building in a deadly attack.

However, the board called the indefinite suspension of Trump “vague and uncertain,” and sent the issue back to Facebook, giving it six months to clarify Trump’s punishment and respond.

Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the social network’s decision to ban Trump

In a statement, Trump called the decision “a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our country. Free speech has been taken away from the president of the United States because the radical left lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before.”

He said that “these corrupt social media companies must pay a political price.”

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also lashed out at Facebook.

“It’s a sad day for America,” he said on Fox News. “It’s a sad day for Facebook because I can tell you a number of members of Congress are now looking at do they break up Facebook, do they make sure that they don’t have a monopoly.”

One Trump loyalist in Congress seemed to promise retribution on Twitter. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted that Facebook would “pay the price” for “permanently” banning Trump. She later deleted the tweet. (The ban is not permanent.)

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted: “Is there anything more Orwellian than Facebook’s ‘independent oversight board,’ stocked with left-wing academics, deciding issues of free speech?”

Although Facebook is a private company, Republicans who often back free market policies have called for the social media platform to be regulated, with their demands growing louder in response to the treatment of Trump.

The board’s decision comes at a time when the Federal Trade Commission and a group of 48 attorneys general have filed landmark legal actions against Facebook, alleging that it has acted as an illegal monopoly for years.

Meadows, a former lawmaker, claimed that “the Facebooks of the world” — Trump has also been permanently banned by Twitter — have “enjoyed a very wild, wild West kind of regulatory environment.”

“I can tell you that’s going to change,” he added.

Interest in regulating social media networks appeared to increase during the presidency of Trump, one of the most active American politicians on social media. Following the 2020 election, Democrats promised to use their new power to update existing antitrust laws and crack down on misinformation, something that has been fairly widespread on Facebook.

Meadows complained that the former president was being singled out by Facebook.

There are “two different standards: one for Donald Trump and one for a number of other people that are on their sites and suggesting that more nefarious things than what the [former] president has been accused of,” he said.

How Twitter, on the front lines of history, finally decided to ban Trump

Conservative activist Charlie Kirk argued that the Supreme Court should get involved and force a company to allow the former president to use its product.

“This is a big tech, corporate oligarchy without standing and it’s gone too far,” he tweeted. “Enough is Enough.”

The board said that Trump consistently violated the platform’s rules.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the decision by the board upholds “a minimal marker for truth and decency,” and looked ahead to Facebook’s decision in six months.

“Facebook must now decide what it values more: profits or holding Donald Trump accountable for espousing hate, disinformation, and violence,” Blumenthal said in a statement.