KEY POINTS

  • Bill Gates wants Facebook to lift ban on Trump
  • The Microsoft co-founder believes placing a ban would be 'polarizing'
  • The Oversight Board is expected to make a decision 90 days from Jan. 21

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Wednesday urged social media companies to consider allowing former President Donald Trump back on their platforms despite his baseless election fraud theories. 

The billionaire philanthropist weighed in on the impending decision and argued that social media companies, including Facebook, should give Trump access again. He also warned that permanently banning the former president would cause “polarization” among users. 

“I think at some point he probably will be allowed back on and probably should be allowed back on,” Gates said during an interview with CNBC. “If he's spreading lies about the integrity of the election, does that need to be labeled? Is he actually less important in terms of causing trouble in the future than he was in the past?”

"But it'd be kind of a shame if they have to use such an extreme measure," he added. 

Facebook indefinitely suspended Trump in January after he used the platform to incite his supporters on the day the U.S. Capitol was breached in a violent insurrection. 

"We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a statement. "Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete."

Facebook has handed off the decision of whether to let Trump return to the social media network to its Oversight Board, a group of 20 members of humanitarian activists, religious experts, lawyers, and a former prime minister. The board functions as an independent arm responsible for making binding decisions on a selection of Facebook’s content-moderation issues. 

Trump’s ban from the platform is a widely debated topic. Hundreds of civil rights advocates submitted comments ahead of the board’s decision, arguing that giving Trump access to his account would stoke misinformation and violent rhetoric on Facebook. 

“The Board must acknowledge that Trump’s social media presence has made not just Facebook users but the entire world less safe. It must act in defense of the people we represent and not reverse Facebook’s decision on a process foul,” Change the Terms, a coalition of more than 60 human rights groups, wrote in a statement

The Oversight Board has no more than 90 days from Jan. 21 to make a decision on whether to allow Trump back on Facebook.

Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal in 2018 Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal in 2018 Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON