Hillicon Valley: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform

Hillicon Valley: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

The Facebook Oversight Board upheld the suspension on former President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE’s account on Wednesday, but the board’s long awaited decision largely kicked the issue back over to Facebook. The open-ended ruling drew widespread criticism from Democrats, Republicans, advocates and, not surprisingly, Trump himself.


Meanwhile, the Biden administration rescinded a Trump-era gig-worker rule, and Twitter is giving users a chance to rethink rude replies. 

TRUMP’S STILL BANNED — FOR NOW: Facebook's ban on former President Trump’s account will continue following a decision issued by its independent Oversight Board on Wednesday.

"The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible," the board wrote in a statement.

While the board did uphold the suspension, it also found that the indefinite suspension was not appropriate. 

The panel is requesting that Facebook review the decision to develop a "proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform."

"Within six months of this decision, Facebook must reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty," it said.

Read more about the decision


TRUMP’S DEFENSE: The former president defended his supporters as "law-abiding" the day of the Capitol insurrection.

In comments submitted to the Oversight Board on the former president’s behalf, Trump said his supporters were “law-abiding” when they stormed into the Capitol building and that nothing he posted on Jan. 6 could "reasonably be interpreted as a threat to public safety.”

Read more about the comments

BOARD DIRECTOR KNOCKS LACK OF TRANSPARENCY: The director of Facebook’s independent Oversight Board on Wednesday knocked the platform over what he called a lack of transparency in its decision to suspend former President Trump.

Facebook “did not handle the case in a manner that was transparent or consistent or predictable for the user,” Thomas Hughes said on MSNBC’s "Hallie Jackson Reports."

His views were shared by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former prime minister of Denmark and member of the Oversight Board who highlighted the opaqueness of Facebook’s policies in Trump's case.

“What is important is that if Facebook has a newsworthiness part of their decision, they must make that transparent, because it's not transparent,” she said on a call with reporters.

TRUMP’S TAKE: Former President Trump on Wednesday accused tech giants of stifling free speech after the board released its ruling.

“What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before,” Trump said in a statement just hours after the decision was announced.

Read more about Trump’s statement

SO… WHO IS HAPPY? (SPOILER ALERT: NO ONE): The Oversight Board’s ruling pushing the decision back to the Silicon Valley giant fueled calls for government regulation and oversight from both sides of the aisle. 

Democrats and advocates have criticized the process and the board's decision to leave open the ability for Trump to return, while Republicans have centered their criticism around accusations that Facebook is censoring conservatives through the ban. 

“The decision by Facebook’s self-funded panel upholds a minimal marker for truth and decency. Facebook must now decide what it values more: profits or holding Donald Trump accountable for espousing hate, disinformation, and violence,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement. 

House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) tweeted it is “clear that real accountability will only come with legislative action.” 

Advocates who largely panned the Oversight Board's process from the outset said Wednesday's ruling underscored the need for Congress to take action to revamp regulation on Facebook and other tech giants. 

“If somebody like the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world said to us today, ‘Hey, we're going to have our own oversight board and it's going to decide if our products are safe and honest and efficacious,’ we would say, ‘No way.’ Because that kind of authority must be founded on objective criteria for public contest, subject to repair, because they are governed by public laws, and only public laws can enforce transparency and accountability,” said Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard Business School professor.

Read more about the criticism

BREAK THEM UP: Several high-profile Republican lawmakers on Wednesday suggested they would support antitrust reforms in the wake of Facebook's Independent Oversight Board decision.

House Republican Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology House fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses The Memo: Homegrown extremism won't be easily tamed MORE (La.) said in a statement that if “Big Tech believes they have the power to silence a president of the United States, then we need to take a serious look at antitrust laws to limit their monopolistic power.”

“If Facebook is so big it thinks it can silence the leaders you elect, it’s time for conservatives to pursue an antitrust agenda,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, tweeted.

While some Republicans — most prominently Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC Rick Scott urges NBC to demand Winter Olympics be moved from China over human rights abuses  MORE (Mo.) or Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckWhite House backs repeal of 2002 war authorization House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Roy introduces bill blocking Chinese Communist Party members from buying US land MORE (Colo.) – have backed antitrust investigations into the U.S.'s largest technology companies and pushed to give enforcement teeth, the larger GOP has been hesitant to back reforms.


Read more here.  

RESCINDED: The Labor Department on Wednesday announced the withdrawal of the Trump-era independent contractor rule that allowed businesses to classify workers as independent contractors as opposed to employees.

The administration’s move, effective Thursday, allows for workers considered "gig workers" to have minimum wage and overtime compensation protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employee classification has major implications for companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, which depend on gig workers.

“By withdrawing the Independent Contractor Rule, we will help preserve essential worker rights and stop the erosion of worker protections that would have occurred had the rule gone into effect,” Labor Secretary Marty WalshMarty WalshBoston mayor fires city's police commissioner months after domestic abuse allegations emerge Senate Latino Democrats warn about low Hispanic vaccination rates Labor secretary faces questions from Democrats in police chief controversy MORE said in a statement. “Legitimate business owners play an important role in our economy but, too often, workers lose important wage and related protections when employers misclassify them as independent contractors.”

Read more here

BE NICE: Twitter is rolling out prompts that ask users to review their tweets before sending replies that are “potentially harmful or offensive,” the social media company said Wednesday in a blog post.

The prompts also offer options for users to edit or delete the post, unless they choose to send it out as is.


The rollout follows tests of the feature Twitter launched last year that encouraged users to pause before hitting send on such replies. 

When testing the feature, Twitter said 34 percent of people revised their initial response or decided not to send it at all after the prompt.

Read more here


Lighter click: Science, what’s up?

An op-ed to chew on: Social media's ban on Trump: Our 'silence of the lambs' moment



The Untold Story of How Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosMacKenzie Scott gives away another .7 billion to charity Press: Even Jeff Bezos should pay income taxes Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes MORE Beat the Tabloids (Bloomberg / Brad Stone)

British Political Veteran Steers Facebook’s Trump Decision (New York Times / Adam Satariano and Cecilia Kang)

Twitter is ruining the open for surprise meme with better image crops (Verge / Mitchell Clark)