On the afternoon of May 29, Friday, Facebook made one of the most controversial decisions in the history of content moderation. While Twitter put a fact-check and warning label on the tweets where US President Donald Trump incited violence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicized that Facebook would leave the inflammatory post alone.
According to Zuckerberg, he is aware that a lot of people are upset about his decision not to take down Trump’s post. However, Facebook’s policies clearly state that they should enable as many expressions as possible unless it can cause risks and specific dangers or harms.
Facebook Post Gets Likes for It’s Dislike
The Facebook post in question was a statement where Trump said that the shooting would start once the looting starts– a quote he got from a former chief of Miami police, who called for a violent crackdown in 1967 on Miami’s black community. Moreover, as Trump suggested, a long weekend filled with violence occurred in the United States. Police violently assaulted demonstrators and even bystanders across the country during the following days.
Moreover, Zuckerberg emphasized that he left the post on the platform for two reasons. The first reason is that the public needs to know whether the government is planning to disperse the police. On the other hand, the second reason is that Trump backed up his original post with another one where he warned that looting could be a cause of violence. For these reasons, Zuckerberg argued that his platform should not take down Trump’s post, regardless if he meant to incite violence on his post or not. Get the latest updates about Trump and Zuckerberg here.
Zuckerberg held a meeting with his employees to explain his decision.
Facebook employees had a virtual walkout as a protest against their executive’s decision to leave Trump’s post on the platform. To hear their sentiments and to explain his decision as well, Zuckerberg held a meeting shortly after he announced his reasons for not taking down Trump’s post.
In the said meeting, Zuckerberg, along with his head of policy management Monika Bickert, admitted that the president’s post was tough to handle. He also added that he has been struggling about it all day, and it became wrenching for him.
Facebook Likes and Dislikes Zuckerberg(as usual)
Zuckerberg also emphasized his disagreement with the remarks posted by Trump. According to him, his first reaction after seeing the post in question was disgust. Also, he noted that what Trump did is not how the people expect their leader to show up during such a time. Instead, what is happening now calls for calmness and unity as well as empathy for those who were struggling.
Furthermore, Zuckerberg and Bickert said that Facebook executives concluded that Trump’s post did not violate any of the platform’s existing policies. Still, Facebook CEO said that they would be re-examining their existing policies around politicians who use Facebook to discuss the use of state force. The process would take several weeks, according to Zuckerberg.
On the meeting with his employees, Zuckerberg explained that the real question is whether or not Facebook should evolve its policy that covers the discussion about the use of state force. According to him, the deployment of the National Guard now is probably the largest one that makes him worry about the excessive use of military or police force. This reason made him think of adding bounds around such discussions. However, Zuckerberg did not elaborate on what he meant by “bounds” or if he thought of changing the policy into something that would disallow posts similar to Trump’s.
Zuckerberg Disagrees With Twitter’s Approach On Trump’s Posts
As a response to a question asked by his employees, Facebook CEO noted that he disagrees with the way Twitter handled Trump’s post. Notably, Twitter added a fact-check and warning label on Trump’s inflammatory tweets. He said that if Twitter believes that Trump’s post would cause real-world violence, then the company’s approach is not something that must be added behind a warning. And while some people felt comforted that Twitter took a stand against the president’s posts, which incites violence, Zuckerberg personally disagrees with that step.
On May 29, Friday, Zuckerberg told his employees that even though Facebook did not take down Trump’s post, the company is prepared to do so if the US president would violate any of its existing policies in the future. While some employees felt relieved with the statement, others see it as mere appeasement.
On the weekend after the meeting between Zuckerberg and his employees, the long-existing norm of Facebook where employees never publicly criticized their employer shattered on the eyes of the public, tweet by tweet.
Facebook Employees Participated In A Virtual Walkout
The company’s 15 years of history witnessed the most significant collective action of Facebook workers on Monday. While it is hard to tell the exact number of employees who participated in the protest, a private group who participated in the virtual walkout was about 400 employees.
Jason Stirman, a research and development staff at Facebook, expressed in a tweet his disagreement on Zuckerberg’s decision about Trump’s post. According to him, there is no neutral position when it comes to racism, and he is not the only Facebook employee who thinks this way.
Similarly, Jason Toff echoed the same sentiments. Toff, who worked as a former Google and Twitter employee, now works on Facebook’s experimental apps. He said that as an employee of Facebook, he is not proud of how the company is showing up.
In a span of several hours, a lot of Facebook employees expressed their disappointment with Zuckerberg’s decision. As a protest, dozen of employees staged a virtual demonstration, making themselves unavailable for that day.
Sara Zhang, a product designer at Facebook, emphasized in a tweet that people with the same sentiments must stand in the way of danger and not behind it. She added that she would be participating in the virtual walkout to show solidarity with the black community both inside and outside Facebook.