Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan aren’t mincing their words when it comes to President Trump.
Zuckerberg and Chan, in a letter shared with a number of scientists supported by their nonprofit organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, ripped the president’s recent comments on protesting and rioting following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The date of the letter was not specified.
“We are deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump’s divisive and incendiary rhetoric at a time when our nation so desperately needs unity,” they wrote, according to Recode. “This is an extraordinarily painful inflection point in our nation’s story, particularly for the Black community and our Black colleagues, who have lived with the impacts of systemic racism for generations.”
Despite the strong language, Zuckerberg did not say whether Facebook will be more forceful with the president’s account moving forward.
Their letter comes soon after more than 140 scientists tied to CZI sent Zuckerberg a letter, insisting Facebook take a tougher stance on “misinformation and incendiary language.” Two weeks ago, Zuckerberg and Facebook declined to take action against President Trump’s account, after the president posted that “any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Trump was later criticized for using the phrase because it had been used by Miami’s police chief to scare protestors during the civil rights era. Miami Police Chief Walter Headley said it in a 1967 speech, in which he claimed his officers “don’t mind being accused of police brutality” against teens and young adults he called “young hoodlums.”
Facebook’s decision to leave Trump’s post alone set the company apart from Twitter, which attached a notification to the same comment on Trump’s Twitter account for breaking its rule against “glorifying violence.” Snapchat, responding to a different post from President Trump, has also stopped promoting his account on its Discover page, where users find curated news and stories.
The CZI-backed scientists, according to CNN, said Trump’s post was a “clear statement of inciting violence” and that Facebook should’ve taken it down.
Zuckerberg, over the last few weeks, has defended his decision to leave the president’s account alone. During a virtual meeting with employees recently, Zuckerberg said Trump’s post was clearly a “troubling historical statement and reference, whether or not it’s inciting supporters to go to violence.”
But Facebook decided against moderating the post, because “we basically concluded after the research and after everything I’ve read and all the different folks that I’ve talked to, that the reference is clearly aggressive policing — maybe excessive policing — but has no history of being read as a dog whistle for vigilante supporters to take justice into their own hands.”
Overall, 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 month. “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, like when Facebook was skewered by many on the left, including Elizabeth Warren, for not fact-checking its political ads.
Read Zuckerberg and Chan’s letter below:
Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan have responded to the 270+ scientists at the @ChanZuckerberg Initiative who called on Zuckerberg to curb misinformation.
Zuckerberg says he and Chan are "deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump’s
divisive and incendiary rhetoric." pic.twitter.com/j5ziU15Ik9
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) June 12, 2020