Trump is an important public figure, no matter how many people despise him. It was one thing to temporarily ban him from social media during the tumultuous days following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Doing so helped ensure that Trump could not mobilize his followers to further violence that could hinder or mar President Biden’s inauguration. That danger has now passed, and keeping the former president from commenting on public affairs would only serve to suppress free speech. That’s not something Facebook, or any social media platform, should do.
Facebook offers no clear rationale for why the ban has persisted. It referred the ban to the board for its determination on Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration. That announcement notes the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the issuance of its indefinite ban on Jan. 7. If the ban is upheld, Facebook will be committing itself to a policy of banning individuals or entities that might plausibly encourage political violence. That policy would inevitably lead the company down the rabbit hole of assessing which political speech might motivate people to act unlawfully, even if the speaker may not even be aware of the risk. That would make Facebook exactly what its critics say it already is: a global entity that polices political speech.