The company’s decision to remove former President Donald Trump was upheld by Facebook’s independent review board on Wednesday. But one of the most significant aspects of the decision wasn’t about the former President’s social media accounts at all; rather, it was a recommendation for a more thorough investigation into the role the site played in the dissemination of election conspiracy theories that, in the words of the board, “exacerbated tensions that culminated in the violence in the United States on January 6.”
The study, according to the board, should “be an open reflection on the design and policy choices that Facebook has made that may allow its platform to be abused.”
The company has tried to distance itself from the notion that its platform was involved in the uprising, so the suggestion that it take responsibility for election disinformation and abuse might not be welcomed.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, attempted to downplay her company’s involvement in sparking the uprising in January, saying that other technology companies were primarily to blame.
Despite the fact that Facebook has more rules and content moderators than other sites, election conspiracy theories thrived there.
After the insurgency, Facebook started banning posts from or linked to “Stop the Steal,” a campaign that aimed to sway election results. A Facebook community dedicated to “Stop the Steal” attracted hundreds of thousands of supporters the week before the election before being shut down.
According to a Facebook internal report obtained by BuzzFeed News, the company’s response to Stop the Steal content has been “piecemeal.”
The board’s suggestion that Facebook’s involvement in the insurgency be investigated is not legally binding, and Facebook may opt to disregard it.
On Thursday, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told CNN Business that the organization was considering all of the board’s suggestions. He didn’t say anything about this suggestion in particular.
When Facebook wanted to look at its potentially negative impact on human rights around the world, it hired an independent attorney to perform an investigation.
The audit’s findings were released last summer, and they concluded that Facebook had glaring blind spots for hateful content and disinformation, as well as decisions that “reflect serious setbacks for civil rights.”
Following the audit, Facebook hired human rights experts.
The recommendation came from Facebook’s oversight board, which was created to look into contested moderation decisions independently. The board also told the company on Wednesday that it must decide whether Trump should be allowed to return to the platform within six months. The board objected to Trump’s accounts being suspended indefinitely, saying the corporation should instead enforce a punishment consistent with its own rules, such as a permanent ban or “time-bound period of suspension.”
In addition to its decision on Trump’s account, the board made many recommendations to the organization, including greater accountability in content moderation decisions, the implementation of procedures to rapidly escalate political content for moderation, and a study.