Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly considering adding warning labels to Facebook posts penned by government leaders if they incite violence – less than a week after he criticized Twitter for doing the exact same thing.
Vox obtained access to a video conference call between Zuckerberg and several of his Facebook employees Tuesday, during which he revealed he was toying with the idea.
According to the publication, Zuckerberg also predicted that the United States could be entering a ‘prolonged period of civil unrest’, meaning that the company may ‘alter its policies on what kind of announcements government leaders can make about state violence, such as excessive use of police force.’
However, the Facebook co-founder allegedly told his employees that such actions would not happen overnight.
‘These policies have to be developed… There’s no way we can do something like that on the fly,’ he stated.
Just last week, Zuckerberg defended keeping posts up without annotations, telling Fox Business: ‘I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.’
He took a dig at Twitter, further stating: ‘Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.
Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly considering adding warning labels to Facebook posts penned by government leaders that may incite violence – following outrage over his failure to censor Trump’s ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ post
The post was shared on both Facebook and Twitter. Facebook left the post up as is, while Twitter hid it behind a warning label
Twitter flagged Trump’s post for ‘glorifying violence’
His sudden about-face comes after outrage from Facebook employees and civil rights activists over Zuckerberg’s decision not to censor an incendiary post by President Trump last Friday.
Twitter hid the same post behind a warning label, which claimed that the content ‘glorified violence’.
Trump’s post – which referenced protests over policing in Minneapolis – read: ‘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!’
Many critics of the post complained that it not only glorified violence, but that it was also grounded in racist origins.
‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts’ is a phrase that was first uttered in 1967 by Miami’s then-police chief, who was accused of using racist tactics to patrol black neighborhoods.
But a day later, Zuckerberg stood by his decision to keep Trump’s post up.
He wrote on Facebook: ‘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’.
He further described himself as ‘the leader of an institution committed to free expression’.
On Saturday, Zuckerberg stood by his decision to allow Trump’s post to stay up unedited.
Trump’s post came after riots in Minneapolis on Friday, which saw shops looted and buildings destroyed
But on Monday, many Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout over Zuckerberg’s move.
The employees, who took the day off by logging into Facebook’s systems and requesting time off to support protesters across the country, also added an automated message to their emails saying that they were out of the office in a show of protest.
Dozens of online posts appeared from employees who claimed Trump’s post should have been censored or removed altogether.
Among them were all seven engineers on the team maintaining the React code library which supports Facebook’s apps.
‘Facebook’s recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction,’ they said in a joint statement published on Twitter.
‘Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,’ wrote Ryan Freitas, identified on Twitter as director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed. He added he had mobilized ’50+ likeminded folks’ to lobby for internal change.
On Monday night, Zuckerberg then held a conference call with civil rights leaders who condemned him for failing to remove the post from President Trump.
In a subsequent statement, Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference and Sherrilyn Ifill of LDF said: ‘He [Zuckerberg] 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.’
Color of Change President Rashad Robinson also told Bloomberg: ‘The problem with my ongoing conversations with Mark, is that I feel like I spent a lot of time, and my colleagues spent a lot of time, explaining to him why these things are a problem, and I think he just very much lacks the ability to understand it.
‘He continues to do things and make decisions that hurt communities and put people in harm’s way and is not accountable for it.
‘His employees are outraged. I’ve got outreach from some of them. Saying Black Lives Matter, saying I’m going to give money, but having your policies actually hurt black people, people will know the difference.’ Some of the company’s senior staff have taken to Twitter to make their discontent.’
However, in his Tuesday meeting with his Facebook employees, Zuckerberg insisted he was not deferring to President Trump.
‘This isn’t a case where [Trump] is allowed to say anything he wants, or that we let government officials or policy makers say anything they want.’