Mark Zuckerberg Explains Why Facebook Isn’t Taking Down Trump's Post Threatening Violence Against Protestersby Matt Perez
As Twitter has begun to fact-check and add warnings to inaccurate and inflammatory tweets by President Trump, Facebook is taking a hands-off approach, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg explaining Friday why the site didn't flag or outright take down a threat from the president to have the military shoot "looters" amid the Minneapolis protests.
In response to violent protests in Minneapolis over the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, Trump posted an identical message on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"
Twitter put the statement behind a warning that it was "glorifying violence," though it still made the message viewable.
Facebook, which also owns Instagram, took no action, and late Friday Zuckerberg posted a statement explaining why: "Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric," but, he wrote, "I'm responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression."
While he previously said Facebook doesn't allow content that "incites violence or risks imminent harm," he said the company left Trump’s message 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."
Zuckerberg also seemed to argue that Twitter’s reasoning was muddled, writing, "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."
Facebook uses third-party fact-checkers but only to "really catch the worst of the worst stuff," Zuckerberg said in an interview on CNBC Thursday, adding, “In terms of political speech, again, I think you want to give broad deference to the political process and political speech.”
Trump signed a legally fraught executive order Thursday attempting to limit the liability protections of Internet companies after Twitter added context to an erroneous tweet sent by the president recently regarding California's mail-in voting. Zuckerberg was critical of Twitter, saying on Fox News this week that social media companies "shouldn't be the arbiter of truth." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shot back by tweeting, "This does not make us an 'arbiter of truth.' Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves."
After Zuckerberg's comments on Fox News, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called them disgraceful on MSNBC. “As far as the platforms are concerned, they want two things from the federal government: no regulation and no taxes. And so they cater to the Trump administration all the time. I think that Mark Zuckerberg's statement was a disgrace.” Trump shared Zuckerberg's statement on Twitter.
Trump's shift in focus to regulating social media companies comes amid the coronavirus pandemic and the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis. A video showing a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressing his knee into the black man’s neck as he complained he couldn’t breathe went viral on Monday and sparked days of protest, where teargas was shot at demonstrators and a police precinct was set afire Thursday night. Chauvin and three other officers on the scene—Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng—were fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. The U.S. leads all countries in confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 1,745,606, as well as reported deaths with 102,798.
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