Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan respond to criticism from more than 140 scientists and say they are 'deeply shaken and disgusted' by Trump's inflammatory statements on Facebook

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  • Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have responded to criticism over Facebook’s moderation policies following a letter written by dozens of scientists who receive funding through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
  • The scientists called out the Facebook billionaires for allowing Trump to use the platform to spread misinformation and use divisive language.
  • In response, Chan and Zuckerberg said that they were “deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump’s divisive and incendiary rhetoric” but that Facebook operated independently from the philanthropic organisation and followed its own policies on moderating the platform.
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Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have responded to criticism over Facebook’s moderation policies, saying they are “deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump’s divisive and incendiary rhetoric” on the platform.

Zuckerberg and Chan were responding to a letter sent out by more than 140 scientists who receive funding through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In the letter, the scientists argue that Facebook’s policies are “directly antithetical” to the philanthropic company’s mission statement and that the “spread of deliberate misinformation and divisive language” on the platform goes against what the initiative stands for.

“The spread of news that is not vetted for factual accuracy leads to confusion and a mistrust of experts,” the scientists said.

“Like many, we were disconcerted to see that Facebook has not followed their own policies in regards to President Trump, who has used the Facebook platform to spread both misinformation and incendiary statements,” they added.

They specifically cited President Donald Trump’s May 29 Facebook post in which he said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” something the scientists said was “a clear statement of inciting violence.”

In contrast, Trump posted the same statement to Twitter, which put it behind a content warning that it was glorifying violence.

Dozens of Facebook employees walked out in protest of Trump’s posts and called out the social-media company for not taking action against the incendiary statements.

In the letter written by Chan and Zuckerberg, which was shared to Twitter by the Recode reporter Teddy Schleifer, the billionaires say that while Trump’s comments were unsettling, Facebook operated independently from the philanthropic organisation and followed its own policies on moderating the platform.

“We take your concerns seriously and to heart,” the letter said.

“And personally, like you, we are deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump’s divisive and incendiary rhetoric at a time when our nation so desperately needs unity,” it continued.

“Although CZI and Facebook are entirely separate and independent organisations with different missions and teams, we do share the same co-leader. And in this moment, we understand that CZI’s relationship with Facebook is not an easy tension to bridge.”

The letter linked to a status update shared by Zuckerberg in which he said Trump’s May 29 post was left up on the site because the president threatened deploying the National Guard and “people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”

Still, Chan and Zuckerberg said Facebook’s decisions were “not the decisions of CZI as an organisation” and “nor will Facebook ever dictate how we at CZI approach our mission, work, or partnerships.”

They also pledged to “redouble” efforts as a philanthropic organisation to address racial injustice.

Zuckerberg last week said the company was exploring ways to address feedback they received from the community on how they could improve their policies, including reviewing Facebook’s policies “allowing discussion and threats of state use of force.”

Both Chan and Zuckerberg have recently spoken out in support of the protests against police brutality spurred by the May 25 death of George Floyd.

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