Facebook will not take action against a post by President Donald Trump that appeared to urge the shooting of looters in Minnesota, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said late Friday — a stance that differentiates the company from rival Twitter, which is under siege from Republicans for labeling the president’s tweets.
Zuckerberg said that while he personally had a “visceral negative reaction” to Trump’s “divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,” the company has decided to leave up the message because of Facebook’s commitment to “free expression” and because the post could inform users about potential government use of force.
“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.
In separate but identical posts early Friday on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Trump addressed the national unrest in Minneapolis, where the death of an African American man in police custody has sparked protests. Trump said, in part, that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter quickly added a notice to the message on its platform alerting users that the tweet violated its rules against “glorifying violence.” The platform required users to click through a prompt to see the missive and limited their ability to retweet it.
But Facebook, which owns Instagram, did not offer comment for most of Friday on whether it would take its own enforcement action against the post, even as messages racked up shares across the two major platforms. As of Friday evening, the post had nearly 200,000 likes and over 60,000 shares on Facebook, plus more than 400,000 likes on Instagram.
Twitter has faced withering criticism from Trump and his allies for labeling a series of tweets earlier this week that the platform flagged as containing misleading information about mail-in ballots and voter fraud. But Facebook earned plaudits from conservatives for declining to act against an identical post on its own platform.
Zuckerberg personally jabbed Twitter over its decision this week in an interview with the conservative-leaning Fox News, saying platforms like theirs “shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey fired back in a series of tweets later, saying the platform will “continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally” and “admit to and own any mistakes we make” in the process.
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