Mark Zuckerberg on leaked audio: Trump’s looting and shooting reference “has no history of being read as a dog whistle”
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Financial Services Committee in October 2019. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
On a tense call with employees, the Facebook CEO defended his decision not to moderate Trump’s posts. In an internal video call with Facebook employees on Tuesday obtained by Recode, CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on his controversial decision to take no action on a post last week from President Donald Trump. In the post, Trump referred to the ongoing protests in the US against racism and police brutality and said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Facebook’s handling of Trump’s post — which included language similar to what segregationists used when referring to black protesters in the civil rights era — has divided employees at Facebook and prompted them to openly criticize Zuckerberg in a way they never have before. Around 400 employees staged a virtual walkout of work on Monday, at least two employees have resigned in protest , others have threatened to resign , and several senior-level managers have publicly disagreed with Zuckerberg’s stance — calling for him to take down or otherwise moderate Trump’s post, as Facebook’s competitor Twitter already has .
This tension spilled over into the Tuesday Q&A meeting that around 25,000 employees tuned into — with several employees’ posing questions that were highly critical of the company’s actions and policies, and scrutinized whether the company is listening to racially diverse voices in its upper ranks.
“I knew that the stakes were very high on this, and knew a lot of people would be upset if we made the decision to leave it up,” Zuckerberg said on the call. He went on to say that after reviewing the implications of Trump’s statement, he decided that “the right action for where we are right now is to leave this up.”
Zuckerberg said that he did a thorough analysis of the history around the apparent reference in Trump’s post, which he called “troubling,” but ultimately did not find it to be an incitement of violence under Facebook’s policies.
“We basically concluded after the research and after everything I’ve read and all the different folks that I’ve talked to that the reference is clearly to aggressive policing — maybe excessive policing — but it has no history of being read as a dog whistle for vigilante supporters to take justice into their own hands,” Zuckerberg said on the call. He also said that, overall, Facebook still reserves the right to moderate Trump.
“This isn’t a case where [Trump] is allowed to say anything he wants, or that we let government officials or policy makers say anything they want.”
Facebook has largely avoided moderating Trump’s posts on its platform. In March, however, after Recode and other outlets reported on deceptive advertisements that made a Trump campaign questionnaire appear to be the official...