Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday defended US President Donald Trump’s statements last week that called for aggressive policing to curb the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Trump said on both Facebook and Twitter. While Twitter took down the statement, saying it was inciting violence, Facebook kept the statement despite outrage and one of its employees tendering his resignation.
While holding a conference call with 25,000 Facebook employees, Zuckerberg defended his stance of not taking down the post, saying that while it sounded like it was instigating violence, it was actually calling for policing.
“We basically concluded after the research and after everything I’ve read and all the different folks that I’ve talked to, that that reference is clearly to aggressive policing — maybe excessive policing — but has no history of being read as a dog whistle for vigilante supporters to take justice into their own hands. But I spent a lot of time basically going through all these different arguments about why this could potentially be over the line and thought very carefully about it and knew that the stakes were very high on this,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg also cited the Northeast Delhi violence as an example of social media posts by political leaders as some of those that instigating violence. Without naming Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra, Zuckerberg said, “You know, that was — that’s obviously inciting and calling for violence. We took that down. And there have been cases in India, for example, where someone said, “Hey, if the police don’t take care of this, our supporters will get in there and clear the streets.” That is kind of encouraging supporters to go do that in a more direct way, and we took that down. So we have a precedent for that.”
Also mentioning that posts by Trump have been taken down by Facebook, Zuckerberg added, “While we’re on that, we also have a precedent for taking down Trump’s stuff. You know, this is something that I think a lot of people haven’t necessarily really focused on, but earlier in the year he ran — or his campaign — a bunch of ads that we ruled were census misinformation and took them down. So this isn’t a case where he’s allowed to say anything he wants or that we let government officials or policymakers say anything they want. And we have rules around what is incitement of violence. We looked at both — the basic interpretation was that this did not clearly fall into those rules.”
You can read the full transcript of Zuckerberg’s speech with his employees here.