A number of metropolitan areas have seen large-scale demonstrations on Friday over the death of a Minneapolis man in police custody on Memorial Day.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has defended his controversial decision to leave up President Donald Trump’s posts about the Minneapolis protests on the social media platform. Trump’s post on Friday in part warned, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“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,’’ Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook later Friday.
While the posts remained on Facebook, Twitter flagged one of Trump’s tweets with the same content as “glorifying violence.”
Wrote Zuckerberg: “I’ve been struggling with how to respond to the President’s tweets and posts all day. Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric … but I’m responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression.”
Facebook looked closely to evaluate whether Trump’s post violated the company’s policies, according to Zuckerberg. The words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” have been attributed to a Miami police chief in 1967 who made clear his disdain for civil rights activists.
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That Miami police chief, Walter Hedley, vowed a crackdown on “young hoodlums” and he dispatched police dogs and officers armed with shotguns to enforce order in minority communities.
“Although the post had a troubling historical reference, we decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action,” Zuckerberg wrote, “and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”
“Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today’s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be.”
Social media companies’ handling of the president’s tweets and posts were revisited earlier this week, when Twitter added fact checks to Trump’s tweets which made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballots. Zuckerberg questioned the decision, saying private companies shouldn’t serve as an “arbiter of truth.”
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