Leaders of three US civil rights groups said on Tuesday they were “disappointed and stunned” over Facebook’s refusal to moderate President Donald Trump’s controversial posts.
A group of civil rights activists spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg on Monday to persuade the company to review President Trump’s posts before releasing them, as Twitter recently did. The rights team included Rashad Robinson of Colour of Change, Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference and Sherrilyn Ifill of the Legal Defence Fund.
Facebook executives rejected their demand.
“We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up,” the rights activists wrote. “He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters.”
The joint statement warned Mr Zuckerberg that he was “setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”
The meeting followed a wave of backlash over Facebook’s decision to leave President Trump’s posts intact. On Monday, hundreds of Facebook employees took part in a “virtual walkout” to show their resentment with the company’s policy.
The controversy started on Friday when President Trump posted his comments on the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota last week. In the comment, posted on both Twitter and Facebook, President Trump wrote: “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter flagged the tweet with a warning that it violates the company’s rules about “glorifying violence,” but Facebook took no action on the post.
Facebook employees said on social media that they were ashamed and upset by the company’s decision to leave Mr Trump’s post untouched. A Facebook spokesperson told the company would not silence dissenting voices. “We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership,” the spokesperson added.
“We’re grateful that leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback with Mark and Sheryl. It is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations,” said another Facebook spokesperson.
In an internal discussion with his employee, Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged that the decision on “how to handle” President Trump’s post “has been very tough.”
“My first reaction [to Mr. Trump’s post] was just disgust,” he said. “This is not how I think we want our leaders to show up during this time.”
Mr Zuckerberg also promised review to review policy.
“Over the coming days, as the National Guard is now deployed, probably the largest one that I would worry about would be excessive use of police or military force,” he said. “I think there’s a good argument that there should be more bounds around the discussion around that.”