On Jan. 7, Facebook suspended President Donald Trump, striking a significant blow to his ability to communicate with the public. Banning him permanently from the platform would be a mistake.
An independent review board of activists, lawyers and journalists known as the Facebook Oversight Board has been considering the question of whether Trump's de facto ban was justified and whether he should be permanently excluded or allowed back on the platform. The oversight board has ruled that the original suspension was legitimate, but also that suspending him for an unspecified period is not.
This isn't a good outcome for free speech. The remedy for bad speech is more speech, so the argument goes. And that adage holds true even when it's the president of the United States spouting falsehoods.
Facebook should post fact checks of Trump's content and remove posts that violate fair, clearly articulated standards. Banning Trump altogether goes too far. Trump, for better or worse, is a part of the debate. Because he says things that are false or controversial, it does not follow that his presence on this platform should be banned. This is a draconian reduction of free speech.
Facebook is a publishing platform, and an outsized publishing platform at that. It is a megaphone by which users can reach millions of people directly. The law has not yet caught up to social media giants, which never could have been anticipated by the Founding Fathers, and for now they remain largely unregulated.
Publishers have a right and a duty, therefore, to curate and mediate the content that appears on their platforms. Facebook already employs independent fact checkers to help police this online forum for rule violations. Clearer rules and more and better self-policing are the way forward.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE