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Zuckerberg says Facebook will revisit policies in wake of Trump backlash

POLITICO logo POLITICO 6/6/2020 By Cristiano Lima
Mark Zuckerberg looking at the camera: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. © Mark Lennihan/AP Photo Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said Friday the social media giant will reexamine its policies against violent threats and voter suppression after facing intense backlash over its recent handling of incendiary posts by President Donald Trump, particularly from its own employees.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Zuckerberg said he wanted to “acknowledge the real pain expressed by members of our community” over the company’s decision not to take any action on a Trump post that appeared to threaten protesters with violence. The move has sparked unrest at the tech behemoth, with scores of staffers publicly denouncing the decision and skipping work in protest.

In response, the tech mogul said Friday the company will be revisiting its policies against “threats of state use of force” and voter suppression efforts, as well as its current “binary” standard of either taking down or leaving up posts that may incite violence.

“We're going to review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions,” he wrote. “I know many of you think we should have labeled the President's posts in some way last week.”

Zuckerberg also teased an array of other possible follow-up actions, including making the company’s decision-making process on content decisions more transparent, expanding the diversity of groups involved in shaping its decisions and creating new products that “advance racial justice.” But the post contained little to no concrete commitments.

“I want to be clear that while we are looking at all of these areas, we may not come up with changes we want to make in all of them,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Facebook has been hit with intense scrutiny since leaving up a Trump post about protesters that read, in part, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." Democrats on Capitol Hill have hammered Facebook’s inaction as “embarrassing” and cowardly, while Republicans have lauded the restraint citing free speech concerns.

But the controversy has boiled over internally at the company, where employees who in the past have been reluctant to speak out against Zuckerberg have openly rebuked his high-profile decision.

Pressure for action first began mounting on Zuckerberg when rival Twitter slapped a fact-checking label on a Trump tweet that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting, then increased when Twitter added a warning label on the "shooting" message, which the president posted across the social media platforms.

Zuckerberg later said that while he personally had a "visceral negative reaction" to Trump's "divisive and inflammatory rhetoric," the company decided to leave up Trump's "shooting" post because of Facebook's commitment to "free expression" and because the message could inform users about potential government use of force.

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