Facebook refuses to take down Trump’s inciting statement, faces backlash from employees and civil rights leaders

Trump had posted a threatening statement against people protesting the killing of George Floyd

Trump Image Courtesy: variety.com

George Floyd (46), passed away on May 25, 2020, hours after he was arrested by Minneapolis police officers. Video footage of his final moments showed the police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he was pinned on the floor. Even as Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe”, the officer did not let go for at least 8 minutes. Medical reports showed the cause of death being “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression”.

On May 29, American President Donald Trump put out a statement including the words, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, apparently in response to the protests that erupted demanding justice for Floyd’s death. The post was deemed particularly inciting for it made reference to a racist 1960 police chief who was known for ordering patrols of black neighbourhoods with shotguns and dogs, The Guardian reported.

George Floyd’s death brought about violent protests in Minneapolis, demanding that the lawless law enforcement agencies which brutally assaulted George Floyd and other members of the African American minority in the past, be brought to book. The protests led to an emergency being declared in Minnesota and the activation of the National Guard.

In his statement, Trump addressed protestors as “thugs” and said that the military would be sent in to handle the matter. The statement was posted on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and was seen as visibly encouraging violent action against those protesting police brutality.

It must be noted that as protests intensified and protestors clashed with law enforcement near the White House, the lights of the Presidential building were turned off and Trump and his family were taken to a secret bunker in the building, which was said to have last been used during 9/11.

Twitter, in keeping with its guidelines, hid the statement behind a warning which read, “The tweet violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”


However, Facebook refused to delete the post from its platform and even from Instagram which is owned by it. On Facebook, Trump’s post has garnered 206K likes and 34K heart emojis. On Instagram, where the text was overlaid on his photo, the post has garnered 528,098 likes.

In a personal post, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, tried to defend his action of not taking down the post by saying that though the President’s words personally troubled him and that many people were upset that the social media platform didn’t take down the statement, it was left up after a close look at the policies and because their platform encouraged as much expression as possible. A portion of his post read, “Although the post had a troubling historical reference, we decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force. Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today’s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be. The President later posted again, saying that the original post was warning about the possibility that looting could lead to violence. We decided that this post, which explicitly discouraged violence, also does not violate our policies and is important for people to see.”

Zuckerberg also took a dig at Twitter’s action to the post, understandably to justify his own and said, “Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician.”

The Guardian also reported that dissatisfied with Zuckerberg’s response, some Facebook employees held a rebellion by staging a “virtual” walkout in a rare act of dissent. Members of the organization tweeted in opposition of Zuckerberg’s decision, publicly denouncing it.

Andrew Crow, Head of Design, Portal at Facebook tweeted –

Ryan Frietas, Director of Product Design for News Feed said –


Some employees also asked the Facebook’s Oversight Board, a quasi-independent body, making decisions around content moderation to intervene into the matter, The Guardian reported. However, the board said it wouldn’t be able to do so as it was “working hard to set the board up to begin operating later this year”.

Civil Rights leaders Vanita Gupta, Sherrilyn Ifill and Rashad Robinson, heads of Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Color of Change respectively, who met Zuckerberg, issued a statement criticizing him for his decision, The Guardian reported. “We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up,” Vanita Gupta, Sherrilyn Ifill and Rashad Robison said in a statement.

Whether or not it was in light of these events, Zuckerberg posted that Facebook was committing an additional $10 million to groups working on racial justice. 


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