By Sarah E. Needleman 

Facebook Inc. has referred its decision to indefinitely suspend the accounts of former President Donald Trump to its outside oversight board, as the company grapples with how to treat one of its highest-profile users after his exit from public office.

Earlier this month the social-media giant moved to disable Mr. Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts for at least two weeks, after he egged on supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol seeking to keep him in power in a Jan. 6 attack that left five dead. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that the risks of Mr. Trump's using the platform through Inauguration Day were too great.

"We believe our decision was necessary and right," Facebook said in a blog post Thursday, one day after the swearing-in of President Joe Biden. "Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld."

Facebook said Mr. Trump's accounts would remain suspended while a five-member panel of the oversight board determines in the coming days whether certain posts he made before to the riot had violated the company's community standards and values. The panel will also determine whether Facebook's removal of those posts respected international human-rights standards. Mr. Trump's Facebook account has more than 35 million followers and his personal Instagram account nearly 25 million.

During this time, Mr. Trump will have the opportunity to submit a statement to the independent panel on why he believes Facebook's content moderation decisions should be overturned, the company said. Members of the public will also be able to share their insights and perspectives with the panel, it said.

The review of Mr. Trump's accounts mark the biggest issue the oversight board has addressed since it was established last year to help Facebook make the final call on difficult content decisions. Although Facebook established the board's funding and created its structure, neither Mr. Zuckerberg nor anyone else at the company can overrule its decisions. Facebook said the board's members are experts and civic leaders from around the world with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 21, 2021 13:54 ET (18:54 GMT)

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