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Meet the people deciding Trump’s fate on Facebook

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04.05.2021

A group of 19 lawyers, scholars, activists and journalists from around the world will announce on Wednesday whether former President Donald Trump’s Facebook account is to be reinstated or kept off the platform for good, a ruling with massive implications for U.S. politics.

The so-called Facebook oversight board has been deliberating Trump’s case since January, when he was booted off after the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol over fears he might incite more violence. Their decision could give the former president back one of his most powerful megaphones or muzzle him permanently on yet another major social media platform.

While the board members have spoken sparingly about how they are weighing Trump’s suspension, many have a long track record of weighing in on contentious issues around free speech on social media, and their backgrounds could offer a glimpse into how they each approached Trump’s blockbuster case.

A spokesperson for the board did not return a request for comment for this story, but the group has previously said its diversity of opinions is its strength. “The Oversight Board has Members with various backgrounds, expertise and characteristics, so that they can make fair decisions on cases from around the world,” the board said in a tweet last year.

The board has no shortage of vocal Trump critics — some who have even suggested he should be imprisoned over his role in the storming of the Capitol or that he’s a bigot and a racist. But their views on free speech online are far more complex, meaning they could still go either way on Trump’s suspension.

Here’s what we know about the board members, and what their experiences in the realms of law, government, academia, human rights and journalism may tell us about Trump’s fate on Facebook.

The Americans

One of the board’s five U.S. members has been deeply involved in the determination of whether Trump stays or goes on Facebook, while another is sitting out the decision entirely.

Under the board’s rules, a panel of five members first reviews any case and makes a recommendation, which is then accepted, rejected or amended by a majority vote from the entire body. While the members of the smaller panel are not disclosed, it always includes one member from the case’s region. That means at least one U.S. member was directly involved in the board’s initial read of the Trump case.

The cast of Americans includes two prominent conservative figures — former federal judge Michael McConnell and John Samples, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute. Alongside them are two other lawyers steeped in debates around online speech, Columbia Law professor Jamal Greene and University of Oklahoma law professor Evelyn Aswad.

Greene has been critical of Trump as a person and politician, calling him "a serial liar, a sexual predator ... a white nationalist, a plutocrat and a professional con artist" and tweeting about his “unfitness” for office.........

© Politico


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