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Zuckerberg says he's 'struggling' with Trump's latest posts but leaving them up

The Facebook CEO said of a post about shooting alleged looters in Minneapolis: "People need to know if the government is planning to deploy force."
Image: Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook Inc., at a technology conference in Paris on May 24, 2018.
Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook Inc., at a technology conference in Paris on May 24, 2018.Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday he wasn’t going to take down President Donald Trump’s posts about shooting alleged looters in Minneapolis nor put a warning on them as Twitter, but he acknowledged he had been "struggling all day" with how to respond.

Zuckerberg, in a late afternoon post on his Facebook wall, largely stood by his long-held view that social media companies should take a light touch when deciding how to moderate the statements of politicians.

“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 scrutinized out in the open,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook had been in touch with the White House on Friday to explain the company’s policies, he said.

Trump, Twitter and Facebook have been entangled all week in a debate over how online services should treat the president's words, even fact-checking them, when they conflict with the services' written terms.

Trump early Friday had posted on both Twitter and Facebook that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — a phrase with an ominous history that many readers interpreted as a threat to shoot American citizens.

Twitter, which had an established rule about glorifying violence, left the message up but put it behind a warning label so that users would need to click through to see it. That further angered Trump, who said the tech company was targeting him. The White House's Twitter handle later posted the same tweet, which was also given the warning label.

Zuckerberg wrote in his post that Facebook did not have a similar policy about using warning labels, and it would have taken down Trump’s words if they violated Facebook policy. But, he said, the president’s post did not.

“Although the post had a troubling historical reference, we decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the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,” he said.

Facebook employees have been among those critical of the company’s leadership, expressing concern internally that “history will not judge us kindly,” tech website The Verge reported Friday.