Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told staff at a company meeting on Thursday that Steve Bannon suggesting that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded was not enough of a violation of Facebook’s rules to permanently suspend the former White House chief strategist from the platform, according to a Facebook employee.
Bannon was permanently suspended from Twitter last week after making the comments in a video.
The video was live on Bannon’s Facebook page for about 10 hours last Thursday and had been viewed almost 200,000 times before the company removed it, citing its violence and incitement policies.
“These are instances of speech that are just so egregious,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a social media professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. “Dr. Fauci is leading the Covid response here in this country, and to get on the platform to call for his beheading is just terrible.”
Grygiel believes the incident shows how uncomfortable Zuckerberg is navigating situations in which Facebook’s rules are broken by conservatives like Bannon as Facebook has faced repeated accusations of right-wing censorship and bias against conservative views. “It’s showing the pressure Zuckerberg is under,” Grygiel said. “Steve Bannon has proved that he abuses the platform. I would really like Mark Zuckerberg to show some accountability in not letting people harm the public and society in such a way.”
Facebook declined to comment.
Zuckerberg’s comments were first reported by Reuters and BuzzFeed News.
Facebook has a “strike” system in which repeat rule breakers can eventually be suspended – though some individual actions can lead to immediate bans. Bannon could face permanent suspension of his page if he continues to break Facebook’s rules.
The video was also posted to YouTube. The company removed the video, but has not banned Bannon.
Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have stepped up efforts to crack down on misinformation, especially during the election. Some conservatives have said they’re being censored. This was on full display at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill at which tech CEOs were slammed by Republican senators for what one claimed was an “apparent double standard” that disadvantages conservative content on social media. (However, independent studies of social media have found little credible evidence to suggest that the technology is biased against right-wing viewpoints.)