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Facebook’s top lobbyist is pushing for the “contradicting” Trump ban policy – POLITICO

Facebook was instructed to clarify the rules for political speeches after Donald Trump was banned – and the company’s top lobbyist is not happy.

In an interview with POLITICO’s confidential podcast on the EU, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Affairs Nick Clegg criticized the guidelines issued by a group of experts to extend the ban as sending confusing signals for dealing with political speech on the platform.

“The regulator said two things that, to be honest, are in tension,” said Clegg. “On the one hand, you have recognized that political speech, especially in democracies, is a special form of speech, and as a first principle it is important that people have as unimpeded access as possible to what politicians say.

“On the other hand, they suggested that high-reach politicians should in no way be viewed as different from other high-reach Facebook users, so we have to deal with that,” he added.

Clegg’s comments, who reportedly played a key role in shaping Facebook’s approach to Trump, suggest a lengthy process to review the decision, as well as an increasingly strained relationship between the company and its board of directors.

The global panel of experts launched in October is paid by Facebook to decide on content-related matters, e.g. B. whether the company rightly removed a particular post. But no decision has been as momentous as trying to ban Trump indefinitely after the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill for inciting violence.

While the board upheld Facebook’s original decision, its 12,000-word response blew up the “ad hoc” method Facebook had used to reach it and called on the company to implement “special procedures” for influential users by Decisions were escalated to “specialized employees” who are isolated from influence.

It also asked Facebook to outline how Trump would be affected by the company’s Newsworthiness Allowance – a policy that says content that is current and in the public interest can persist even if it is against community Violate standards. (Facebook previously said it did not apply that policy to Trump, despite researchers found that Trump posts violated before Jan. 6 had gotten up.)

Clegg suggested that the board may not have reached a final conclusion on how best to deal with such matters. “I do not think so [these questions] were completely resolved in the statements of the supervisory board, “he said.

But Thomas Hughes, director of the board of directors, said the guidelines were clear enough.

In the case of influential users and political leaders like Trump, the company would need to do a “damage test,” that is, assess whether an entity incites discrimination, violence, or lawlessness, and then publicly state why they took a particular decision and give the one Length of sentence.

“If there is a very serious violation, then it is An account can also be permanently deleted, “he added in a conversation before the podcast recording.

Medium term misery

Facebook now has six months to change its policies and make a final decision on Trump.

Clegg said the company was unlikely to use the entire period and did not want to refer the decision back to the regulator.

“It is certainly not my intention, it is certainly not our intention on Facebook for this to become an endless kind of pinball exercise where it just pings from one body to another,” he said.

However, the challenge facing Clegg and other top Facebook executives is immense.

Trump remains central to the U.S. Republican Party, and his influence will increase in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections. Any decision about his status on Facebook, either to keep it or to ban it permanently, is sure to fuel further partisans tensions over the role of big tech in politics.

As other Republicans continue to pick up on Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, the company must determine whether those comments, too, deserve bans or suspensions.

Beyond the US, changes to Facebook’s policy on political speeches could bring the company into conflict with national regulations – not just in non-democratic countries, where social media companies are under increasing pressure to remove offensive content, but also in countries who are allied with the United Kingdom.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration proposed content rules that tackle illegal and harmful online content but protect politicians from the threat of shutdown in the name of a “democratically important” speech.

If these laws pass, Clegg, a former UK Deputy Prime Minister and party leader, could find himself in the difficult position of defending new Facebook policies that contradict or undermine London’s political speech excavation.

At the moment, the ex-politician is holding his cards close to his chest. “I can’t look into my crystal ball and tell you what’s going to happen,” he said. But whatever Cleggs next step may be, it will likely bring him closer and closer to the political game he left on Facebook.

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