Facebook executives pleaded with Trump to tone down his post threatening violence against George Floyd protesters, report says

Reuters/Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMark Zuckerberg and President Donald Trump.
  • Facebook executives haggled with President Donald Trump over his May post about the George Floyd protests in which he said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
  • Facebook deputies called the White House, asking Trump to either tone down the language or delete the post altogether, sources told The Post.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Trump that the post put Facebook in a difficult position, the report said.
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Facebook tried to persuade President Donald Trump to tone down the language in his May post that threatened violence against George Floyd protesters, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Sources familiar with the matter told The Post that Facebook executives called the White House to try to get the president to either tone down the aggressive language in the post – which said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” – or delete it entirely. The Post did not identify the executives but described them as “deputies.”

Sources also told The Post that CEO Mark Zuckerberg subsequently told Trump in a phone call that the post put Facebook in a difficult position. Axios reported on May 31 that Zuckerberg had called Trump, but it did not include details of the call.

Trump wrote the post in late May, amid the protests against Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. Trump’s team denied that he knew the racist origins of the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” coined by a Miami police chief in the 1960s whose harsh policing tactics targeted Black neighbourhoods and caused riots.

Twitter placed the post behind a block, saying it violated its policies about “glorifying violence.” Facebook decided not to touch it, prompting outrage from civil-rights groups and its own employees.

In a blog post justifying Facebook’s decision to leave Trump’s post alone, Zuckerberg said Facebook interpreted the post’s references to the National Guard as a warning to citizens.

The Post’s report suggested that Trump’s political career had moulded Facebook’s policies on hate speech and misinformation as far back as 2015. Facebook denied this.

“The Washington Post’s insinuation that we developed policies intended to please the Trump administration is wrong,” a Facebook representative told Business Insider.

“While many Republicans think we should do one thing and many Democrats want us to the do just the opposite, our job is to create one common set of rules that applies equally to everyone. We don’t believe Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or any technology company should determine what words people should or shouldn’t see from their elected leaders in a democracy.”

Facebook’s moderation of Trump’s posts that appear to violate its guidelines has led to an advertising boycott, with major companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Verizon pulling their ads from the platform.

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