Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke out Friday evening after pressure from inside and outside of his company to respond to posts by President Donald Trump seeming to threaten to shoot what he called “thugs” protesting the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
Shortly after after protesters outraged by the death of Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, torched a police building there Thursday, Trump vowed “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in social media posts. The phrase, once used by segregationist Georgia Governor George Wallace, is seen as an approval of police violence against protesters. Within hours, Twitter hid the post behind a warning that it violated the site’s rules against “,” the first of such moves the company took against Trump’s tweets.
But the posts remained on Facebook and Instagram, where it racked up more than 64,000 shares and more than 426,000 “likes.” Zuckerberg took to his Facebook page late Friday defending the move, saying he’d discussed the matter with his team and chose to let them stand.
“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,” he wrote. “Although the post had a troubling historical reference, we decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”
He added that the company is going to rethink its approach to this policy following Trump’s posts. “We have been in touch with the White House today to explain these policies as well.”