Mark Zuckerberg has urged high-profile Facebook executives to investigate whether Donald Trump could be banned from the social platform for his call for a travel ban on Muslim countries, according to a bombshell New York Times report.
The Facebook boss is said to have been "appalled" by a controversial statement that then-presidential candidate posted on Facebook in December 2015. Back then, Trump proposed a "total and complete shutdown" on Muslims travelling to the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
Trump's hard stance on the immigration policy has triggered public outrage among left-wing American voters. Moreover, it has reportedly lead Zuckerberg, who co-founded the lobbying group on immigration reform FWD.us, to inquire whether the statement violated Facebook's rules as inciting racist sentiment.
Citing Facebook employees familiar with the matter, the report claims that Sheryl Sandberg, the platform's chief operating officer, Joel Kaplan, the global policy head, and Elliot Schrage, then-head of public policy and communications, delved into the company's terms of service but failed to establish that they were violated by the post in question — or even by Trump's account per se.
Joel Kaplan argued that Trump was an "important public figure," the Times reports, and that blocking him from the site or removing his statement could be seen as a violation of freedom of speech. Kaplan also voiced concerns that such a move could trigger a "conservative backlash" and proposed that Facebook not "poke the bear."
The conclusion was that Trump's inflammatory post had not broken Facebook's rules and that they had public value, so that both his statement and account remained untouched.
Donald Trump's fiery rhetoric in relation to domestic and international affairs has earlier fueled calls to ban him from Twitter, his favourite tool of communication. Twitter's rationale was similar to that of Joel Kaplan: the company said in a statement on its corporate blog that blocking a world leader or deleting their tweets would "hide important information" from people. "It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions."
The president's travel ban targeting seven mostly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria — came into force in January last year. It has ignited public debate over the lawfulness of the president's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy and triggered a Supreme Court probe. In July, the nation's highest judicial body ruled that the ban is constitutional and that "the Government has set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review."