In a question and answer session with thousands of employees, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the decision to do nothing against a controversial message from President Trump. He said it is the right choice to leave it. The session with employees was not public, but the New York Times and tech site Recode, among others, have sound clips in their hands.
The president posted the message on both Twitter and Facebook last Friday. In the message, he suggests that looters will be shot in Minneapolis, the words to use “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. With this, Trump used the same words as Miami police chief Walter Headley in 1967. Headley was repeatedly discredited for his behaviour against the black community, Howard University professor Clarence Lusane told news channel NPR last week.
Twitter decided to hide the message in the timeline, but not delete it. According to the company, it is in the public interest that the message remains visible. Facebook left it untouched.
That has led to a storm of criticism in recent days. On Friday, the chief posted a message on his Facebook page in which he indicated that he had a negative feeling about the message and that he had struggled with it. That didn’t help get the sting out.
The meeting with employees was originally scheduled for tomorrow but was brought forward two days because of the unrest. Several employees have resigned because of Facebook’s position, according to The New York Times. There were also demonstrations in front of Zuckerberg’s house and headquarters.
In the question and answer session with his employees, Zuckerberg said that he received a call from Trump on Friday. “I used that moment to let him know that I found his message inflammatory and harmful.” In his own words, Zuckerberg has also analyzed the historical context of the message. He called it “disturbing”. Nevertheless, he says, the message does not violate the rules of his platform.
An open and honest discussion
The CEO was asked by an employee whether black employees had also been involved in the decision-making. Zuckerberg replied that only Maxine Williams, who deals with diversity, has been asked for her opinion. Another employee asked why “the smartest people in the world are focused on twisting our policies to avoid making Trump our enemy.”
A Facebook spokesperson says that an open and honest discussion is always part of Facebook’s culture and that the CEO is “grateful” for the feedback.
The newspaper spoke to various (former) employees of the company who said that the conversation with Zuckerberg only increased internal friction and it was pointless to try to change the CEO’s mind.
According to tech site Recode, Zuckerberg said the company is considering placing a label on messages from world leaders calling for violence, rather than doing nothing.