Facebook held one of its town halls earlier this week, with the topics of discussion ranging between the company’s reported role in spreading misinformation to the way it has handled US president Donald Trump’s recent comments to incite violence.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg was at the centre of the town hall, where he seemingly tried to justify the company’s decision to leave Trump’s posts on the platform untouched, despite them contravening the rules that Facebook had put in place.
This particular town hall was not open to the public, but The Verge was able to obtain some of what was said during it.
While Zuckerberg did note that he found the president’s comments offensive, he retreated back to his usual argument of free speech, as to why the Facebook took no action.
“The presumption on our service is that you should be able to say what you want unless you’re causing a specific harm and we enumerate what the harms are and try to enforce them. And I do think that default is right,” he explained.
This stance is seemingly at odds with what Zuckerberg has told his employees in the past. A soon-to-resign Facebook employee, Timothy J. Aveni, noted as much in a post following his confirmed departure from the company come 12th June.
“Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence. He showed us on Friday that this was a lie. Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act on increasingly dangerous rhetoric,” he wrote.
“I cannot keep excusing Facebook’s behavior. Facebook is providing a platform that enables politicians to radicalize individuals and glorify violence, and we are watching the United States succumb to the same kind of social media-fueled division that has gotten people killed in the Philippines, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. I’m scared for my country and I’m done trying to justify this,” Aveni continued.
Zuckerberg also tried to justify Facebook’s choice to leave Trump’s comments on the platform as a difficult, but necessary decision.
“I don’t know many people who think that just because that was a painful thing to see that that somehow wasn’t a good thing to allow on there,” said the CEO.
“It’s an aspect of giving people a voice that i’m quite proud of,” he added.
How he can be proud of such a decision is hard to fathom, but Facebook employees are clearly pushing back against the decision making given some of the questions that were brought up in the town hall.
“Why are the smartest people in the world focused on contorting or twisting our policies to avoid antagonizing Trump instead of driving social issue progress?,” one employee asked.
Another questioned whether Facebook’s VP for integrity, Guy Rosen, was consulted on this decision.
“I don’t think it’s probably great that we’re not super clear on whether the VP of integrity was included on an integrity decision involving civic matters of voter suppression and societal violence, right?”
Both great questions that Zuckerberg could not give definitive answers too.
With Facebook having been on the wrong side of several important issues over past few years, this latest one is yet another we can list in the company and its CEO’s inability to draw a line in the sand.