MINNEAPOLIS — Get ready to brace for online outrage. On Wednesday morning, trending topics across social media are likely to revolve around the status of the former president's Facebook account.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump will learn whether his indefinite ban from Facebook will remain in place, and it's sure to generate controversy no matter what the decision is.
Following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the fallout from his false claims of election fraud, former President Trump was kicked off several social media platforms. But while his Twitter ban is permanent, the fate of his Facebook account hinges on a decision by a little-known board.
KARE11 reporter, Kent Erdahl, spoke to Washington Post Technology Reporter, Heather Kelly, about who will make the call and why it will have worldwide implications.
Kent Erdahl: We're not talking about Mark Zuckerberg just handing down a decision, right?
Kelly: No, that's always been the way it was done in the past, actually, any big decisions usually end up on Mark's desk and I think they realized that that wasn't always going to be the best decision.
Erdahl: Facebook has now put the decision in the hands of something called the Oversight Board. What do we know about the board?
Kelly: The board is brand new. It was first thought of in 2018 but it has only been going since last fall. They meet entirely over Zoom, just like us, and it's about 20 people, it's going to be 40 eventually. They're all trying to come together to make these really big, complicated, decisions. It's kind of like a Supreme Court with no legal standing.
The board members include some of the world's leading experts on free speech and human rights, including Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Yemen, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.
Though the board's decisions won't have legal standing, they will impact what more than 2 billion people see and interact with on one of the world's most influential, worldwide platforms.
Kelly: The decision has already been made. Everybody got a 48 hour heads up, they're going to kind of let the president's camp and Facebook know around the same time and they're going to release it on their website. The decision is going to be interesting. There's going to be two parts to it. First, and this is considered binding, the board is going to decide whether to uphold or overturn Facebook's decision to let Trump be on the platform. The second part of the decision is going to be a series of policy suggestions on how to handle world leaders going forward, and I think that's actually going to be the most interesting thing to watch. It could really change, not just Trump, but how leaders around the world are handled on Facebook.
Whatever decision is, it will likely have a ripple effect across social media and society at large. Kelly says all you have to do is look back at the former president's posts following the election, to understand how it might influence future timelines.
Erdahl: Long before January 6, it was almost impossible to see a tweet or a post (from Mr. Trump) that didn't have some sort of a disclaimer on it warning about the claims he made.
Kelly: And there was no telling, really, if those disclaimers did much. If you see a big disclaimer that says, 'do not read this,' you're going to read it. It's going to get as many eyeballs at the end of the day. One thing that Facebook has been doing for a long time is it's had this 'newsworthiness' exception for world leaders and political leaders where it just let them post a lot more than what regular users could. That's helped them grow to power around the world, so it is hugely influential. It could impact the outcome of elections, in theory. Whether or not Trump gets let back on is only one part of this.