Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has vowed the social media platform will adjust its policies with respect to discussions regarding the use of force by police and “voter suppression”.
In a memo to employees, which was also displayed on his personal page, the Facebook CEO pledged his commitment to “making sure we … fight for voter engagement and racial justice”, with “concrete steps” in the pipeline to alter policies.
Emphasising that he was responding to questions regarding what specific steps Facebook could take to improve its products and guidance rules, the Facebook chief underscored that there would be a review of policies allowing the discussion and threat of states using force in instances of “excessive use of police or state force [and] when a country has ongoing civil unrest or violent conflicts”.
“We already have precedents for imposing greater restrictions during emergencies and when countries are in ongoing states of conflict, so there may be additional policies or integrity measures to consider around discussion or threats of state use of force when a country is in this state,” wrote Zuckerberg in his blog post.
Regarding “voter suppression”, Zuckerberg promised to take into account the realities of voting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and voiced confidence in the “election integrity efforts we've implemented since 2016”.
In conclusion, Mark Zuckerberg underscored a responsibility to “overcome racial injustice” in America and around the world, and encouraged direct feedback on “product, integrity and content policy ideas”.
Zuckerberg Petitioned for Decision on Trump Post
The memo comes amid criticism over the company’s response to recent protests sweeping the US in connection with the death of African American George Floyd in police detention.
Dozens of former Facebook employees penned a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on 3 June, slamming the platform for choosing to leave US President Donald Trump’s post on violent protests over Floyd’s death untouched.
In the letter, published by The New York Times, it is said that leaving Donald Trump’s tweet, cross-posted to Facebook, was a "betrayal" of the social media platform's ideals.
In the post, Trump declared that violent protesters in Minnesota sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody had dishonoured the man’s memory, and used the phrase "the looting starts, the shooting starts", which is a quote taken from a 1967-era radicalised racist statement by a Florida police chief.
While Twitter hid the post, which it perceived as inciting violence, Facebook did not.
"[Facebook] claims that providing warnings about a politician’s speech is inappropriate, but removing content from citizens is acceptable, even if both are saying the same thing," wrote the former Facebook employees.
Several current employees also weighed in, holding a digital protest.
"Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. I disagree strongly with how the president spoke about this, but I believe people should be able to see this for themselves, because ultimately accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinised out in the open," said Zuckeberg in a comment on his decision to leave Trump’s post up.
Zuckerberg was also quoted by Fox News as defending his decision regarding the Trump posts, saying that Facebook should not “be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”