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Former U.S. President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress slammed the decision by Facebook's oversight board to uphold his suspension from the social network, calling it an attack on free speech.
In a statement released shortly after Wednesday's verdict, Trump said "What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country," adding that those companies "must pay a political price."
Facebook imposed the ban following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump supporters over concerns the then-president's continued presence on the site could lead to further violence.
Oversight board member and former Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning Schmidt said the ban was justified but not its open-endedness, as it was imposed without clear standards.
THORNING-SCHMIDT: "They did the right thing when they removed Mr. Trump from their platforms but they can't just invent rules as they go along. They have to stick to their own rules because if we as users have to follow Facebook's community standards, then they do as well."
The binding verdict means Trump will not be able to return to Facebook's platforms, for now, as the board gave Facebook six months to determine a "proportionate response."
In the meantime, Republicans are using the upheld ban as a rallying cry.
With an eye on the 2022 midterms, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a tweet, "If [Facebook] can ban President Trump, all conservative voices could be next. A House Republican majority will rein in big tech power over our speech."
Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the board’s decision was “disgraceful” and issued the same warning about the ban being a slippery slope, saying "what’s to stop them from silencing you?”
But second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer disagreed, saying in a Washington Post live interview that "Facebook is not the public square," adding that the social media company has the right to refuse to be a medium for the ex-president.
At a White House news briefing on Wednesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said she would not comment on the oversight board's decision, but said social media sites should not be a megaphone for misinformation.
PSAKI: "The president's view is that the major platforms have a responsibility, related to the health and safety of all Americans, to stop amplifying untrustworthy content."
On Tuesday, Trump launched a new web page to share messages that readers can re-post on Facebook or Twitter.
Trump has also recently used his Save America PAC as a means to communicate, releasing several statements this week in a style reminiscent of his tweets to attack his critics and repeat his false claims of election fraud.