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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Facebook refuses to remove Trump’s posts despite backlash

Many have called for the removal of Trump's posts on Facebook, which they say glorify police brutality. However, Zuckerberg has taken a firm stance against the removal of his posts, due to which critics feel is a double standard.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has defended his decision not to interfere with posts by US President Donald Trump, US media reported, after the social media giant’s hands-off policy sparked outrage and prompted some employees to quit.

Social media platforms have faced calls to moderate the president’s comments, most recently because of the unrest gripping America in the wake of an unarmed black man’s death during arrest as a white policeman knelt on his neck.

Facebook refuses to remove Trump’s posts

The row began last week when Zuckerberg said Facebook would not remove or flag Trump’s posts that appeared to encourage violence against those protesting police racism, even as the social media titan Twitter put warning labels on some of the president’s tweets over accuracy issues or the glorification of violence.

His posts and tweets come after protests in the US took a violent turn.

Images of vandalism and looting in New York have emerged on social media, mirroring scenes in countless other cities over the last week as protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupt into rioting and mayhem.

Read more: Curfew imposed in US cities as protests become unmanageable 

Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, said her city was sharply limiting access to its central business district after violent protests. She reflected the exasperation of many officials and ordinary residents over the turn from peaceful protest to explosive violence.

Zuckerberg told employees in a video conference on Tuesday he talked to Trump on the phone after the decision, and that he “used that opportunity to make him know I felt this post was inflammatory and harmful, and let him know where we stood on it”, The New York Times reported, citing a recording of the call.

The CEO was referring to a post by the president that said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — the same comment on Twitter was still visible but behind a warning label.

Facebook’s move prompted intense scrutiny and dissent from employees, and it was a “tough decision” over content that had upset him personally, Zuckerberg told around 25,000 staff who had tuned in, according to the tech website Recode which had obtained a copy of the call.

“I knew that the stakes were very high on this, and knew a lot of people would be upset if we made the decision to leave it up,” Zuckerberg said on the call, not backing down from the policy, Recode reported.

But Zuckerberg said during the tense call that Facebook was exploring whether it should amend the policy on such content or find other options to mark it instead of outright removal, according to one person on the call cited by Bloomberg.

A Facebook spokeswoman told The New York Times that Zuckerberg was “grateful” for the employees’ feedback.

Facebook changing the standards for Trump?

The call came after a number of Facebook employees publicly expressed their anger at the company’s policy on incendiary content, with many quitting or threatening to leave.

Zuckerberg had not kept his word about stopping posts that glorify violence, said Timothy Aveni, a software engineer who resigned from the company.

“Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act on increasingly dangerous rhetoric,” Aveni wrote on his Facebook page.

Prior to the staff call, civil rights activists had issued scathing criticism of Facebook’s policy.

“We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up,” said a statement from three leaders: Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Rashad Robinson of Color of Change.

“He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters. Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”

Previously, Facebook was criticised for not removing Trump’s ad, which violated their standards.

Read more: Facebook deletes Trump’s ad

Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who worked with Facebook on its census policies, said the social network confirmed the removal of the ads.

“While we’re gratified that Facebook shut down Trump’s attempt to sow confusion about how and when to participate in the 2020 Census, it’s disturbing that the ads weren’t immediately removed,” Gupta said in a statement.

Zuckerberg defends his stance on allowing Trump’s posts to remain up

But in the Tuesday call, Zuckerberg pointed to his other philanthropic work on social causes, and even took a shot at other firms who had expressed support for the latest calls for justice, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We’re kind of seeing every corporate CEO across the country right now just stand up and say, ‘All right, yeah, black lives matter, we stand with our black community,'”, he said, according to a participant in the call quoted by the Journal.

“I think that’s important to say and to remind people to say it, but I don’t think it takes any particular courage to say those things when there’s a huge crisis. What I hope people can look at is the track record that I and other leaders have of focusing on these issues.”

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk