Over Employee Protests and Frustration, Mark Zuckerberg Confirms Facebook Will Not Remove Trump Post Inciting Violence
Casey Newton, the Verge:
Facebook will not remove or take any other action on a President Trump post that Twitter removed for “glorifying violence,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday. “I know many people are upset that we’ve left the President’s posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” Zuckerberg said.
Newton, in a separate piece from earlier today:
Facebook’s decision not to take action against recent posts about mail-in ballots and the Minnesota protests by President Trump is roiling employees, some of whom are calling on executives to reconsider their stance. In response to an internal post explaining the company’s rationale, some employees criticized the company’s neutral posture.
“I have to say I am finding the contortions we have to go through incredibly hard to stomach,” one employee wrote in a comment about the shooting post. “All this points to a very high risk of a violent escalation and civil unrest in November and if we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly.”
Wrote another: “It’s been said previously that inciting violence would cause a post to be removed. I too would like to know why the goals shifted, and where they are now.”
Mark Zuckerberg, testifying earlier this year in response to a line of questioning from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the limits of Facebook’s policy regarding political advertising:
If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause — that is calling for — violence, or could risk imminent physical harm, or voter or census suppression […] we will take that content down.
In statements cross-posted to Facebook and Twitter this week, Trump lied about voter fraud in mailed ballots, insinuated that the Governor of California was rigging an election, and referenced a 1960s Miami police chief in threatening to send in the National Guard to shoot protesters in Minneapolis. All of those statements remain on Facebook.
Update: New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, live tweeting an internal Facebook-wide question-and-answer session (punctuation and capitalization sic and typical for Isaac):
it’s only been minutes but the majority of employee responses to Zuckerberg’s decision thus far are….not very positive
so the way these Q&A’s work, Zuckerberg’s video streams and employees ask questions of him in a text box, sort of like a twitch stream.
employees have taken to sharing clips of MZ’s testimony to @AOC last year as a way to push back, wondering if the guidelines still truly exist.
As I wrote previously, I can see the cynical financial rationale for Zuckerberg’s stance. I can even understand the more banal angle — that he truly believes Facebook should only be a conduit for whatever users post, with exceptions only for pornography and clearly illegal material. I disagree with this angle: Facebook is comfortable in drawing the line in other situations, and Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony illustrated a few reasonable examples where anyone would be subject to fact-checking or removal.
But his and Facebook’s position is clearly leading to discontent amongst the employees who are good and ethical and more careful. If they are unhappy, they can leave — though many won’t — leading to a higher concentration of less scrupulous staff.