Facebook has been reeling behind the scenes this week amid protests over the way CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacted to incendiary posts from US President Donald Trump. Specifically, Zuckerberg decided not to remove a post Trump had made involving the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests.
Floyd was murdered by police last week, sparking nationwide protests across the United States. Many of the protests have turned violent, with riots reported in several locations. Trump deployed the National Guard in Minneapolis, the center of the troubles.
In a tweet and Facebook post, he said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. This was a direct copy of Miami police chief Walter Headley in the 1960s during his campaign of harsh policing of African American areas.
The post from Trump was viewed as incendiary and with the potential to incite violence. Twitter took action and blocked the post saying it violated its terms by “glorifying violence”. It's worth noting Trump had just a day earlier threatened to shut down social media companies. Many viewed Twitter's actions as admirable considering the threat.
However, Facebook and Zuckerberg took another approach. The company decided to allow Trump's comment to remain on its platform. It's unclear whether this was protectionism for fear of Trump targeting the company or whether it didn't think the words violated its terms.
Explanation and Changing Policies
Either way, The Verge reports Zuckerberg addressed employees and said the company will reassess how it manages content from politicians. In leaked audio, Zuckerberg says Facebook may adopt new policies.
“There is a real question coming out of this, which is whether we want to evolve our policy around the discussion of state use of force,” Zuckerberg said.
“Over the coming days, as the National Guard is now deployed. Probably the largest one that I would worry about would be excessive use of police or military force. I think there's a good argument that there should be more bounds around the discussion around that,” he added.
Days before, Zuckerberg was forced to publically explain why he allowed Trump's post about deploying National Guard to stay. The CEO had come under pressure from mass employee protests.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post last Friday.
On Monday, Facebook employees organized a staged walkout in protest, suggesting Zuckerberg's words to ease tension did not go over well.