Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed criticism Friday about why the social network did not block or remove President Donald Trump’s post about the protests in Minneapolis over the murder of George Floyd — the same post Twitter said it hid because the tweet “glorified violence.”
Unlike Twitter, Facebook did not make it a point to preface Trump’s posts with a fact-check label or public interest notice.
Following a bombastic week where Twitter first uncharacteristically flagged the president’s mail-in ballot tweet for misinformation, and then the president, in return, slapped an executive order on all social media platforms, Zuckerberg was called out for saying Facebook would not be “arbiters of truth.”
On Friday, after some deliberation, Zuckerberg wrote that he felt he had a responsibility to explain himself, “not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression.”
Zuckerberg addressed Trump’s post on Facebook about the Minneapolis protests. where he wrote, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“Although the post had a troubling historical reference, we decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force,” he wrote. “Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today’s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be.”
Zuckerberg also pointed out Trump’s eventual clarification to the post, saying: “The President later posted again, saying that the original post was warning about the possibility that looting could lead to violence.”
Because of that clarification, Zuckerberg said the post did not ultimately violate Facebook’s community guidelines.
“We decided that this post, which explicitly discouraged violence, also does not violate our policies and is important for people to see,” he said.
The tech exec also made it a point to address Facebook’s decision toward the president’s rhetoric as opposed to Twitter’s.
“Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician,” he wrote.
“These are difficult decisions and, just like today, the content we leave up, I often find deeply offensive,” Zuckerberg added.
Zuckerberg’s comments, although unsurprising in nature, came just hours after The Verge reported that Facebook employees urged the company to remove Trump’s post. One employee reportedly said, “If we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly.”
Friday’s post seems to contradict earlier statements Zuckerberg made in a congressional hearing to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause, that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm…. we will take that content down."
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) May 29, 2020
“If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause, that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm […], we will take that content down.”
Zuckerberg concluded his Friday post by saying, “I disagree strongly with how the President spoke about this, but I believe people should be able to see this for themselves, because ultimately, accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinized out in the open.”