Over and over again in 2018, during an apology tour that took him from the halls of the US Congress to an appearance before the European Parliament, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook had failed to “take a broad enough view of our responsibilities.”
But two years later, Zuckerberg and Facebook are still struggling with their responsibilities and how to handle one of their most famous users: President Donald Trump.
Despite Zuckerberg having previously indicated any post that “incites violence” would be a line in the sand — even if it came from a politician — Facebook remained silent for hours Friday after Trump was accused of glorifying violence in posts that appeared on its platforms.
At 12:53am ET on Friday morning, as cable news networks carried images of fires and destructive protests in Minneapolis, the President tweeted: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
His phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” mirrors language used by a Miami police chief in the late 1960s in the wake of riots. Its use was immediately condemned by a wide array of individuals, from historians to members of rival political campaigns. Former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Trump was “calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many.”
Twitter decided to affix a warning label to Trump’s tweet — and an identical tweet later posted by the official White House Twitter account — for the first time, indicating that it violated the platform’s rule against glorifying violence.
But the exact same message, saying “looting” will lead to “shooting” and referencing “THUGS,” was posted to Trump’s Facebook account at 1:10am ET, just a few minutes after his initial tweet. The President’s message was also posted to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
As of publication, the posts remained up on both platforms without any label. And while Trump may be more closely associated with his Twitter account, he still has tens of millions of followers on Facebook. His Facebook post has been shared more than 47,000 times and had more than 200,000 reactions and the Instagram post had more than 300,000 likes.
Facebook did not comment Friday morning on whether it would do anything about the posts.
Facebook’s inaction on the posts so far is just the latest example highlighting a diverging approach between two of the most prominent social networks in how they handle some of Trump’s most controversial posts.
While Twitter came under fire earlier this week from some Republicans after adding a fact-check label to Trump’s false tweets about mail-in voting fraud, Facebook did nothing. Instead, Zuckerberg went on Fox News to criticize Twitter.
“We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this,” Zuckerberg said “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”
Facebook appeared to be leaning on its previously declared policy of not fact-checking politicians. But Zuckerberg has said there would be some exceptions to that controversial policy, including the threat of violence.
“If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause, that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm…we will take that content down,” Zuckerberg told Congress in October. The CEO was answering questions from Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when he made the claim.