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Zuckerberg defends hands-off approach to Trump’s posts

Facebook’s principles and policies supporting free speech “show that the right action where we are right now is to leave this up,” Zuckerberg said on the call, referring to Trump’s posts.

New York Times|
Last Updated: Jun 03, 2020, 09.55 AM IST
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The Facebook chief held firm even as the pressure on him to rein in Trump’s messages intensified.
By Mike Isaac, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, on Tuesday stood firmly behind his decision not to do anything about President Donald Trump’s inflammatory posts on the social network, saying that he had made a “tough decision” but that it “was pretty thorough.”

In a question-and-answer session with employees conducted over video chat software, Zuckerberg sought to justify his position, which has led to fierce internal dissent. The meeting, which had been scheduled for Thursday, was moved up to Tuesday after hundreds of employees protested the inaction by staging a virtual “walkout” Monday.

Facebook’s principles and policies supporting free speech “show that the right action where we are right now is to leave this up,” Zuckerberg said on the call, referring to Trump’s posts. The audio of the employee call was heard by The New York Times.

Zuckerberg said that although he knew many people would be upset with Facebook, a policy review backed up his decision. He added that after he made his determination, he received a phone call from Trump on Friday.

“I used that opportunity to make him know I felt this post was inflammatory and harmful, and let him know where we stood on it,” Zuckerberg told Facebook employees. But although he voiced displeasure to the president, he reiterated that Trump’s message did not break the social network’s guidelines.

The Facebook chief held firm even as the pressure on him to rein in Trump’s messages intensified. Civil rights groups said late Monday after meeting with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, that it was “totally confounding” that the company was not taking a tougher stand on Trump’s posts, which are often aggressive and have heightened tensions over protests on police violence in recent days.

Several Facebook employees have resigned over the lack of action.

The internal dissent began brewing last week after Facebook’s rival, Twitter, added labels to Trump’s tweets that indicated the president was glorifying violence and making inaccurate statements. The same messages that Trump posted to Twitter also appeared on Facebook.

The call Tuesday did little to soothe the feelings of employees.

“It’s crystal clear today that leadership refuses to stand with us,” Brandon Dail, a Facebook engineer, tweeted about the call.
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