And yet, amid the high level of interest and the suspense, neither Facebook nor the Oversight Board are commenting. I checked in with both parties about the forthcoming decision and mum is the word.
The decision from the Facebook Oversight Board could, first and foremost, serve as the biggest demonstration of the board’s power and independence. There are quite a few critics who are skeptical that the board is truly independent from Facebook. And there have also been concerns from critics about whether Facebook will abide by the board’s recommendations. If the board were to buck Facebook and issue a decision that rebukes that of Facebook’s, it would be quite the moment and could solidify the board’s power or reveal it to be what some critics have suggested.
What we still don’t know
In addition to not knowing when the actual decision will come down or what it will be, there are still several other unanswered questions. If the board does reinstate Trump, how soon might we see his account reactivated? Could Facebook agree to follow such a recommendation, but not allow him on back until some more time has passed since the insurrection? Could Trump’s profile be reactivated, but in a more limited fashion? Might Facbeook implement additional restrictions on the account? And will the decision be less clear than simply saying whether Facebook should allow him back or not? Could the board make a decision in a more grey area that could be left open to interpretation?
How it could impact the GOP and news cycle
Donie O’Sullivan writes: “The decision from the board could change Trump’s behavior and the entire dynamic of Republican politics. Right now, Trump’s shadow looms large, but we normally only hear from him a few times a week through statements. Having the ability to post on Facebook could mean we are back to seeing Trump weighing in hourly, or multiple times an hour — whether it is what he sees on Fox or if it is armchair quarterbacking every move made by senior Republicans. Of course the question will be how much attention the GOP, the media, and voters, pay to what he says — but this decision could dramatically impact the daily political conversation and the power dynamic in the party.”
The potential political loophole
Donie adds: “Trump is no longer an elected official or a declared candidate, so if he were to be allowed back on Facebook, he would be subject to the company’s fact-checks where he was not before. So you could potentially — again, if you were to be permitted back on the site — expect a lot of friction between Facebook and Trump as they label his posts false or misleading. What would be quite interesting is if Trump were to decide to declare 2024 candidacy early just to get around Facebook’s fact-checking rules…”