Facebook to label inflammatory posts from Trump and other politicians after advertisers boycott site

Mark Zuckerberg is ‘optimistic that we’re going to be able to make progress on these challenges’

James Crump
Saturday 27 June 2020 02:21 BST
Facebook to label content that violates policies as America's biggest companies suspend ads over platforms hate and division

Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will start labelling inflammatory posts from president Donald Trump and other politicians, as America’s biggest companies suspend ads over the platform’s hate speech policies.

On Friday, Mr Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, announced that the social media site will be updating its hate speech and misinformation policies, after more than one hundred companies joined a boycott against advertising on their platform.

Companies including Unilever, Verizon and Ben and Jerry’s announced that they would stop advertising on Facebook, as part of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

The boycott was called for by civil rights groups, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and demanded Facebook do more to stop hate speech and misinformation on its site, according to Reuters.

In a statement on Friday that caused Facebook shares to drop 7 per cent, major advertiser Unilever said it would boycott the social media site, as “continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”

Shortly after the shares dropped in value, Mr Zuckerberg announced on his private Facebook page that the platform will be introducing four new policies to “connect people with authoritative information about voting, crack down on voter suppression, and fight hate speech”.

He announced that Facebook will be launching a voting centre, “to share authoritative information on how and when you can vote, including voter registration, voting by mail and early voting”.

As part of the platform’s attempts to combat voter suppression, Mr Zuckerberg wrote that they will “remove false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day”.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign called on Facebook to modify its policies on hate speech, and Mr Zuckerberg also announced that the site will now prohibit a wider range of hateful content included in ads.

“Specifically, we’re expanding our ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others,” he said.

Additionally, in order to tackle hate speech, Facebook will now label inflammatory posts that violate its policies, but are still deemed newsworthy.

The Associated Press reported that the social media site will flag posts from Mr Trump and from other politicians, as part of the new policy.

“We will soon start labelling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

“We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society – but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.”

The Facebook CEO clarified that the site will now take down posts that “may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote”, even if they are deemed newsworthy or from a prominent politician.

This is a shift in policy and echoes the actions of Twitter, who last month flagged a tweet by President Donald Trump, for “inciting violence” but kept it on the site on the grounds that it was newsworthy.

Mr Trump’s post was also posted to Facebook, but Mr Zuckerberg decided against flagging or taking down the controversial status at the time, despite staff walkouts over the decision.

Mr Zuckerberg said: “I know many people are upset that we’ve left the president’s posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies.”

After announcing the new policies, he added that he was “optimistic that we’re going to be able to make progress on these challenges”.

“I think we’re going to be able to do that while maintaining our democratic traditions around free expression and voting, and I’m committed to making sure that Facebook is a force for good on this journey.”

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