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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Oversight Board's decision Wednesday to uphold Facebook's suspension of former President Trump found few fans in Washington and exposed the company to a new round of attacks.

Why it matters: While the board urged Facebook back to the drawing board to better define its rules and processes around political speech, political actors on both left and right agree that the social media giant already has too much power.

Democrats argue that no matter what the Oversight Board determined about the validity of banning Trump indefinitely from Facebook, federal regulation is needed to make sure disinformation doesn't spread unchecked on the social network.

  • Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) argued the structure of the Oversight Board ignores the role Facebook plays in amplifying disinformation. “It’s clear that real accountability will only come with legislative action.”
  • House consumer protection subcommittee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) called the ruling a "distraction by Facebook to deflect responsibility" and said she intends to introduce legislation soon that would alter a key online liability protection statute, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the decision “upholds a minimal marker for truth and decency.

Republicans took aim at Facebook's power in the social media sphere to de-platform Trump, and said the lack of transparency and consistency in the company's decision-making warrants congressional action.

  • House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) questioned the purpose of the Oversight Board after it punted questions back to Facebook. “This is unacceptable and only underscores the need for Congress to step up our work to bring much-needed reform and oversight to Big Tech.”
  • Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the top Republican on the House antitrust subcommittee, called for “aggressive antitrust reform to break up Facebook’s monopoly," echoing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a call to break up the company.
  • Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for legislation to bring accountability to the industry. "This decision further illustrates the concentrated control Big Tech exerts over speech and why Congress should act to curb its dominance."

Many tech critics view the Oversight Board itself as a sideshow or a distraction.

  • Color of Change's Rashad Robinson, who has consistently put pressure on Facebook over its policies, called the process an "illegitimate and anti-democratic circus... that highlights the need for structural and regulatory change."
  • A common argument: The Oversight Board won't fix social media's problems. "Donald Trump should have been permanently banned from Facebook a long time ago. What people need to understand now is that the Oversight Board, which has still left the door open on this issue, is not the cure for what ails us on social media,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.

Go deeper

Updated May 5, 2021 - Technology

Oversight Board upholds Trump's Facebook suspension

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook's independent Oversight Board upheld the platform's suspension of former President Trump's account but told the social media giant to rethink the ban's "indefinite" nature.

Why it matters: The decision sets a global precedent for how Facebook, and potentially other social media companies, will treat political leaders around the world.

May 5, 2021 - Technology

Inside Facebook’s Trump ban

Wednesday morning, Facebook’s Oversight Board recommended the social network maintain its suspension of former President Trump’s account, which has been in place since January 6. But it also said the company must rethink the “indefinite” nature of the ban, throwing the ball back in Facebook’s court.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the board's decision and what’s ahead for Facebook with New York Times technology correspondent Mike Isaac. Plus, how the decision was received by Trump and his associates with Axios national political correspondent Jonathan Swan.

Trump seen as likely to run in 2024; Facebook ban enrages GOP

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sources close to former President Trump believe he’s increasingly likely to run in 2024 — and that was even before the Facebook Oversight Board inflamed conservatives by upholding the ban on the former president.

Why it matters: Trump and his inner circle view Facebook reinstatement as crucial to his political comeback. The independent Oversight Board's decision, which gives the company six months to make a final determination, enraged Trumpworld.