Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook will not take action on posts published by Donald Trump about the George Floyd protests, including one in which the president warned that, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
“Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on Friday after public outcry over the posts.
Earlier on Friday, Twitter had hidden the tweet behind a label, claiming that it was against the company’s policies against inciting violence, and blocked users from retweeting or liking the tweet.
Mr Zuckerberg said: “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.”
On Thursday, Trump posted threats on both Facebook and Twitter that he would send in the military if riots over the death of George Floyd, a black man, by a policeman earlier this week worsened. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he wrote.
Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook will allow it to remain online in its entirety because he read it as a warning about state action, “and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”
A second post from Mr Trump, warning about the possibility that looting could lead to violence, was also hidden by Twitter. Mr Zuckerberg said because it explicitly discouraged violence and did not violate its policies it would also remain up.
Despite public outrage over Trump’s comments, Facebook’s policy allows discussion around state use of force, he added.
“I disagree strongly with how the president spoke about this, but I believe people should be able to see this for themselves, because ultimately accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinised out in the open,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.
The Facebook boss said this week said that private companies should not fact check political conversations and that it was wrong for Twitter to add a fact-checking label to one of Trump’s tweets about postal vote fraud.
In retaliation against Twitter, Trump signed an executive order targeting a law which protects social media companies from lawsuits when users post defamatory comments.
A former police officer was charged with manslaughter after a video was published of him kneeling on the neck of George Floyd as he grasped for air. The killing has sparked riots in Minneapolis, where Floyd lived.