A decision on the fate of Donald Trump’s Facebook account has been delayed.
Facebook’s Oversight Board—a panel of legal, technology, and human rights experts—was expected to rule on the matter in the next few days. But now the decision is scheduled to arrive “in the coming weeks.”
The delay is due to the board extending the deadline for receiving public comments on the case. In the end, the panel received over 9,000 responses—all of which are being looked over. “The Board’s commitment to carefully reviewing all comments has extended the case timeline, in line with the Board’s bylaws. We will share more information soon,” it said in a Friday tweet.
In January, Facebook suspended access to Trump’s account over concerns he’d incite more violence after a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol. The social network continues to stand by the decision. But the company’s Oversight Board, which is designed to be an independent high court, will have the final say on whether the former president returns to the platform.
The decision, whatever it might be, is expected to spark plenty of controversy. The ruling will also be binding, meaning not even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can overrule it.
Although the board only began deliberating cases since December, it’s already overturned some of Facebook’s past decisions on content moderation, including one case involving a controversial post made about Muslims. Facebook had originally removed the content, citing it as hate speech. But the board overturned the decision, pointing to the full context around the post. “While the post might be considered pejorative or offensive towards Muslims, it did not advocate hatred or intentionally incite any form of imminent harm,” the panel claimed.
The board has committed itself to promoting free expression. But at the same time, the panel says it’s fully aware that “speech can be at odds with authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity.”
“Some expression can endanger other people’s ability to express themselves freely,” the board says in its charter. “Therefore, it must be balanced against these considerations.”