Facebook to review content policy after Trump backlash

Read time 3min 20sec

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to review content policies for the social media network.

This after the social media giant was criticised by its community of users and employees for not taking action on US president Donald Trump’s controversial posts on Facebook.

Last week, Facebook’s early employees lambasted Zuckerberg’s stance on controversial posts by Trump.

Some employees have since publicly quit the social media company over the issue and civil rights leaders who met with Zuckerberg last week denounced his explanation for choosing to leave Trump’s posts alone as “incomprehensible”.

Criticism has been mounting after Trump’s social media posts about protests in Minneapolis and across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death became increasingly aggressive.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Zuckerberg wrote: “As we continue to process this difficult moment, I want to acknowledge the real pain expressed by members of our community.

“I also want to acknowledge that the decision I made last week has left many of you angry, disappointed and hurt. So I am especially grateful that, despite your heartfelt disagreement, you remain focused on taking positive steps to move forward. That can’t be easy, so I just want to say I hear you and I’m grateful.”

Zuckerberg added: “We’re going to review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions. I know many of you think we should have labelled the president’s posts in some way last week.”

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook’s current policy is that if content is actually inciting violence, then the right mitigation is to take that content down – not let people continue seeing it behind a flag.

There is no exception to this policy for politicians or newsworthiness, he noted.

“I think this policy is principled and reasonable, but I also respect a lot of the people who think there may be better alternatives, so I want to make sure we hear all those ideas. I started meeting with the team yesterday and we’re continuing the discussion soon. In general, I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialise on content we don't like even if it doesn't violate our policies, so I think we need to proceed very carefully.”

Facebook is also going to work on establishing a clearer and more transparent decision-making process, Zuckerberg said.

“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. I think we can provide more transparency into what goes into the policy briefings and recommendations that get sent to me.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that more than 140 scientists funded by Zuckerberg have said Facebook should not be letting Trump use the social media platform to “spread both misinformation and incendiary statements”.

The report says the researchers, who include more than 60 professors at leading US research institutions and one Nobel laureate, sent the Facebook CEO a letter on Saturday asking him to “consider stricter policies on misinformation and incendiary language that harms people”, especially during the current turmoil over racial injustice.

The letter calls the spread of “deliberate misinformation and divisive language” contrary to the researchers’ goals of using technology to prevent and eradicate disease, improve childhood education and reform the criminal justice system.

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