Several civil rights groups ripped Facebook and its two most prominent executives, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, for not covering up President Trump’s posts with warning labels, in the same way Twitter has in the last week.
The groups — Color of Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund — criticized Facebook after holding a Zoom call with Zuckerberg and Sandberg on Monday night. The conversation was spurred on by President Trump’s post on Facebook and Twitter last Friday on the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. The president said, commenting on rioters and looters, that ” any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts”; the phrase was criticized afterwards because it had been used by Miami’s police chief during the civil rights era. Twitter covered the president’s tweet with a notification, saying it broke its rule on “glorifying violence,” but Facebook did not take any action against the same post on Facebook.
“We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up,”the groups said in a joint statement. “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.”
In response, a Facebook rep said the company is “grateful the leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback with Mark and Sheryl. The rep added “it is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”
Zuckerberg, in a Facebook post on Friday, said he had a “visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,” but that Facebook wouldn’t censor the post because Trump didn’t mean to glorify violence. The post came on the same day Zuckerberg and Trump talked, according to Axios and CNBC. On Monday, many Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout because they disagreed with Zuckerberg’s decision.
President Trump defended his comment later on Friday as well, saying “looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night,” adding that only “haters” would take issue with it.
Compared to other tech leaders, Zuckerberg has been more inclined to let politicians say what they want without having Facebook add qualifiers or notifications to their posts.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Zuckerberg told Fox News last week. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
Zuckerberg had made similar comments multiple times last year, when Facebook was skewered by many on the left, including Elizabeth Warren, for not fact checking its political ads.