Facebook’s independent oversight board on Wednesday will announce whether it is overturning the company’s suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account. The long-awaited ruling will bring the focus back onto how the world’s largest social network decides what world leaders and politicians can and can’t say on their platforms.
Here is how big tech companies deal with this thorny issue:
Facebook defines politicians as candidates running for office, current office holders and many cabinet appointees, along with political parties and their leaders. Twitter’s public interest rules apply to verified government or elected officials, their appointed successors and candidates, registered political parties or nominees for public office that have more than 100,000 followers.
Twitter says it errs on the side of leaving content up when it is in the public interest, including keeping a record to hold leaders accountable. It also allows leaders to interact with other public figures and engage in “foreign policy saber-rattling.”
In March, Twitter began adding warnings to and restricting the reach of some world leaders’ tweets that would be removed if sent by the average user. Twitter also says it pulls world leaders’ tweets down for offenses like promoting terrorism or posting private information.
Facebook exempts politicians’ posts and paid ads from its third-party fact-checking program, though it did start affixing some separate labels, for example, notices about voter fraud rarity on some of Trump’s posts around the election.
The company’s “newsworthiness exemption” also allows politicians’ rule-breaking posts on the site if the public interest outweighs the harm.
Facebook, which had occasionally removed Trump’s content for violations like COVID-19 misinformation before he was banned, faced employee backlash for its inaction on inflammatory posts including one during anti-racism protests that said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) YouTube says it does not have different rules for world leaders, though its exception for “educational” or “documentary” content does allow certain news coverage of politicians making rule-breaking statements.
After the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Twitter banned Trump for breaking its “glorification of violence” rules, departing somewhat from precedent to take possible interpretations of his tweets into account.
Facebook blocked Trump’s accounts on its platforms indefinitely. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the current context meant the risks of allowing him to use the service were “simply too great.”
YouTube also gave Trump’s channel its first-ever strike following the riot. This would normally come with a week-long suspension but the account remains frozen months later. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the suspension will be lifted when the company determines the risk of real-world violence has decreased.