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Facebook suspends Trump's accounts for 2 years, citing public safety risk

At the end of the two-year period, Facebook said it will discuss whether the risk to public safety has receded with experts.

WASHINGTON — Facebook announced Friday a two-year ban of former President Donald Trump from its platforms, including Instagram, until at least January 2023.

Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said that Trump’s actions on its social media networks “constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols.”

The decision came after Facebook’s quasi-independent Oversight Board said last month that the social media giant was justified in removing Trump’s access from its platforms the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Facebook was then directed to review the suspension.

The two-year extension of Trump’s suspension is effective from the date of the initial ban on Jan. 7.

The former president called the ban "an insult" in a statement Friday. "They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!" he said in a statement.

Clegg’s announcement featured a graphic that detailed "heightened penalties for public figures during times of civil unrest and ongoing violence." Depending on the severity of the content violation, these figures could be banned anywhere from one month to two years and “violations after initial restrictions are subject to heightened penalties, up to and including permanent removal.”

Clegg tied the ban to Trump’s role in the riot at the Capitol, when a mob of his supporters stormed the building in an attempt to interrupt the counting of the electoral votes that solidified Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

“In establishing the two year sanction for severe violations, we considered the need for it to be long enough to allow a safe period of time after the acts of incitement, to be significant enough to be a deterrent to Mr. Trump and others from committing such severe violations in future, and to be proportionate to the gravity of the violation itself,” Clegg said.

At the end of the two-year period, Facebook will discuss with experts whether the risk to public safety has receded, said Clegg, who added that there would be a “a strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions that will be triggered if Mr. Trump commits further violations in future” including permanent removal.

Trump relied on social media during his presidency to circumvent the media and talk directly to his supporters, especially his Twitter account, which was also suspended. The former president has since released statements through his Save America political action committee. He also tried to launch a blog, but that was short-lived.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that while it is up to Facebook to make that decision, she doubts much will change in Trump's behavior over the next two years.

"We learned a lot from President Trump, the former president, over the last couple of years about his behavior and how he uses these platforms," said Psaki. "It feels pretty unlikely that the zebra's going to change his stripes over the next 2 years."