Mark Zuckerberg told enraged employees Facebook might change its policy on politicians using violent speech

insider@insider.com (Isobel Asher Hamilton)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

  • Facebook has come under fire for its decision to leave up a post in which President Donald Trump used the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" while discussing the unrest following George Floyd's death.
  • Leaked audio obtained by The Verge from a company meeting on Friday shows Zuckerberg saying the company might review its policies around the "discussion of state use of force."
  • Zuckerberg justified leaving Trump's post untouched partially on the grounds that he referred to deploying the National Guard. "We think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force," he wrote in a Friday post.
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Facebook has been rocked by internal turmoil after its leadership made the decision to not touch a post by President Donald Trump concerning the George Floyd protests.

In the post on Friday, Trump said the National Guard would be deployed in Minneapolis and used the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Those words were famously used by Walter Headley, a Miami police chief in the 1960s who was known for harsh policing of African American neighborhoods. Trump has said he was unaware of the origins of the phrase.

Conversely, Twitter placed the same post behind a block saying it violated its terms on "glorifying violence." Facebook's inaction enraged scores of employees, who expressed their anger publicly on Twitter through Sunday and Monday.

Leaked audio obtained by The Verge shows Zuckerberg addressed employees about the decision in a company videoconference call on Friday and hinted the company might change its policies on moderating politicians' posts.

"There is a real question coming out of this, which is whether we want to evolve our policy around the discussion of state use of force," Zuckerberg said.

"Over the coming days, as the National Guard is now deployed, probably the largest one that I would worry about would be excessive use of police or military force. I think there's a good argument that there should be more bounds around the discussion around that," he added.

In his public post justifying his decision to leave the post untouched, Zuckerberg said Trump's reference to the National Guard played into the company's decision.

"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," Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Friday afternoon.

Zuckerberg's comments during the company call don't seem to have placated Facebook's employees, as many staged a virtual walkout Monday. During his call Friday, Zuckerberg said he had agonized over the decision.

"It's been something that I've been struggling with basically all day, ever since I woke up [...] This has been personally pretty wrenching for me," he said.

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