Facebook alters policy protecting politicians who engage in harmful speeches

Mark Zuckerberg, president and CEO of Facebook.

Erin Scott | Reuters

Facebook announced a major change to its content moderation policies on Friday, saying that posts by politicians will no longer be exempted from company rules that prevent users from engaging in harmful speech.

The company also said Friday that former President Donald Trump will remain suspended from the platform for two years, starting from the initial suspension date of January 7.

Specifically, Facebook said it will no longer treat content posted by politicians as inherently of public interest or newsworthy. This means that such posts will be moderated like those of any other user.

Facebook will continue to provide a newsworthy exemption for content posted by politicians and other users in rare cases, the company said, but will begin publicly posting regular updates on where it applies this exemption for the sake of transparency.

The announcement marks a 180-degree turnaround for Facebook, which had previously vowed to defend free speech and proclaimed that it should not be a referee of the truth. Most notably in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. elections, the company made the controversial decision to allow politicians to post ads on Facebook even if they contained misinformation.

When it comes to suspending accounts for violating Facebook community standards in ways that incite or celebrate violence, Facebook said it will consider the severity of the violation of a public figure, its influence on the public and the severity of the violence. These factors will be considered to determine how long your accounts will be suspended, which could range from one month to two years. In extreme cases, Facebook will permanently deactivate the account, the company said.

The new policies come after Facebook’s independent Oversight Board in May decided to uphold the company’s decision to suspend Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. However, in its decision, the board noted that Facebook needed to reassess how it moderates the speech of political leaders and clearly delineate those rules for the public.

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