Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is offering an olive branch to employees upset over his refusal to rein in President Trump’s controversial posts about the George Floyd protests.
On Friday, Zuckerberg published a lengthy 1370-word post that basically says the social network is going to revisit the company’s policies around content moderation. Specifically, the review will focus on posts concerning “excessive use of police or state force”, voting during a pandemic, and whether Facebook should try other ways to rein in rule-breaking content like placing a warning label over it.
The key takeaway is that Zuckerberg is opening the door for Facebook to potentially regulate future posts from Trump and politicians that mention a government crackdown on protests, or make misinformed claims about mail-in balloting that confuse the public. In addition, the company plans to review whether more diverse viewpoints should have input in its policy decisions.
In the same post, Zuckerberg writes: “To members of our Black community: I stand with you. Your lives matter. Black lives matter.”
Facebook’s CEO is trying to conduct damage control over the company’s decision to leave up a controversial post from President Trump about the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump wrote last week.
The President has since denied the statement was calling for US law enforcement to shoot looters in the city. Nevertheless, some employees at Facebook have been protesting the social network’s refusal to remove or place a warning label over Trump’s post when rival platform, Twitter, has.
“I disagree strongly with how the President spoke about this, but I believe people should be able to see this for themselves,” Zuckerberg said a week ago, arguing for the need to protect free speech.
On Friday, Facebook’s CEO acknowledged that many employees are “angry, disappointed and hurt,” by his decision to keep Trump’s post up. But he remains confident the social network “can play a positive role in helping to heal the divisions” in society.
Still, Zuckerberg’s post makes no commitment to actually changing the content policies beyond the review. He also implies he’s against placing a warning label over a politician’s or media outlet’s post that may contain disputed information. “In general, I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialize on content we don’t like even if it doesn’t violate our policies, so I think we need to proceed very carefully,” he writes.
However, Zuckerberg says he wants to create a more transparent process for employees to understand the thinking behind its content policy approach. “This is clearly not the last difficult decision we’re going to have to make, and I agree with the feedback from many of you that we should have a more transparent process about how we weigh the different values and equities at stake, including safety and privacy,” he adds.
Not everyone welcomed Zuckerberg’s statements. “I honestly felt insulted reading Mark’s post,” tweeted Mark Luckie, a former Facebook staffer who is black. “I’m an optimistic person and I was excited to see details of concrete change. But there’s little to be found there which is hugely disappointing.”