Why Zuckerberg’s Stand on Trump’s Facebook Post is Controversial
Unlike Twitter, Facebook didn’t take down a controversial post by the US President that could incite violence.
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly is not taking action against a post by US President Donald Trump on Facebook, which many of the company's employees say could possibly incite violence.
Reacting to the protests in the US following the death of an African-American man, George Floyd, in police custody, President Trump remarked in posts on Twitter and Facebook: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Twitter hid the US President's post from view, saying it violated their policies. However, Facebook did not and Zuckerberg reacted only after employees voiced their dissent publicly.
Many opinion writers and commentators have pointed out why Zuckerberg's stand is controversial.
On the blog, Stratechery.com, Ben Thompson says it is problematic that someone like Zuckerberg gets to unilaterally decide what is and what is not acceptable political speech:
In fact, that is what is so striking about the demands that Facebook act on this particular post (beyond the extremely problematic prospect of an unaccountable figure like Zuckerberg unilaterally deciding what is and is not acceptable political speech): the preponderance of evidence suggests that these demands have nothing to do with misinformation, but rather reality. The United States really does have a president named Donald Trump who uses extremely problematic terms — in all caps! — for African Americans and quotes segregationist police chiefs, and social media, for better or worse, is ultimately a reflection of humanity. Facebook deleting Trump’s post won’t change that fact, but it will, at least for a moment, turn out the lights, hiding the dust.
Thompson's view on Mark Zuckerberg is echoed in what New York University Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway had said in an interview to Bloomberg published on CNBC in April 2019. He called Zuckerberg "the most dangerous person in the world."
Galloway was talking about Zuckerberg's move to integrate the messenger services of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, which would result in a common backbone with 2.7 billion users.
“The notion that we are going to have one individual deciding the algorithms for an encrypted backbone of 2.7 billion people is frightening — regardless of that person’s intentions. A key safeguard for society is diversity of media viewpoints, checks and balance. People should be concerned by the notion that one set of algorithms, controlled by one person who cannot be removed from office would have a significant influence over the platform through which billions of Facebook users around the world consume information every day.”
Earlier in the week writing in The New York Times, tech opinion writer Kara Swisher says Zuckerberg often "naïvely wraps himself in the First Amendment, as he cloddishly mixes up complex concepts of free speech with that astonishingly amazing text that focuses on restricting the government (and not companies)."
Swisher says that Zuckerberg "is playing what is always called the long game, largely because he has seen in his short corporate history that he can get away with almost anything."
She adds that even if media, employees and politicians are unhappy with the way Zuckerberg is handling Trump's post, "it hardly matters since Facebook remains a juggernaut of a stock as it smashes other businesses and grabs market share. It can do this because the stock is at all-time highs and because it is the only game in town."
Casey Newton's column, The Interface, published by The Verge, points to nine takeaways from Zuckerberg's speech to his employees. Newton writes that Facebook may adopt temporary speech restrictions for state actors in the US if there is an escalation in civil unrest. He also points out that Zuckerberg acknowledged speaking to US President Trump only after deciding to keep the posts up, while also saying that in that decision-making panel, only one black employee was involved.
Newton says Zuckerberg thinks keeping Trump's posts up likely damaged public perception of the company, but he also encourages employees to see it as the noble cause of defending free speech.
Going by most opinions online, it is clear that Zuckerberg's decisions isn't popular, and it could prove problematic for the company in the long term.
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