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Report: Facebook bent its policies around Trump even before presidency

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  • A Washington Post report claims Facebook has steadily weakened its hate speech and misinformation policies to adapt to Donald Trump.
  • The report says the company began bending its policies in 2015, when then-candidate Trump posted a video saying he would ban Muslims from entering the US.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg was reportedly in favor of taking action against the post, but sources said Facebook executive Joel Kaplan talked him out of it.
  • Facebook’s approach to Donald Trump’s posts over the past month have led to a major boycott from advertisers including Coca Cola, Verizon, and Unilever.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An explosive new report from The Washington Post claims Facebook has weakened its hate speech and misinformation policies because of Donald Trump’s ascent to power.

In 2015, when Trump was a presidential candidate, he posted a video advocating a ban on Muslims entering the US. The video provoked outrage internally, the report said. Sources told The Post that CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in favor of taking action against the post but was persuaded not to by Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s senior vice president of global public policy and former aide to President George W. Bush.

Sources told The Post this decision informally shaped decision-making until 2016, when the company changed its policies so that posts from politicians would have certain exemptions from community guidelines, on the grounds that they were “newsworthy.”

As Trump’s political power solidified, sources told the Post, the company increasingly made policy decisions to appease Washington. In 2019 the company announced it wouldn’t fact-check posts by politicians, and Kaplan reportedly pushed for the platform’s algorithm to be more lenient on right-wing content, following accusations that Facebook penalized conservative voices.

The Post spoke to a dozen current and former Facebook employees and viewed previously unreported documents. Facebook was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Recently, Facebook’s approach to Trump has brought it under fire. In late May, Trump posted on Facebook and Twitter about the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis, saying he was bringing in the National Guard. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the post said.

Twitter placed the tweet behind a clickthrough block alerting users that it broke the platform’s rules on “glorifying violence.” Facebook, however, decided to leave the post untouched, prompting rage from its own employees and civil rights groups.

One June 17, a group of six nonprofit groups called on companies to withdraw advertising from Facebook in a campaign called Stop Hate For Profit. Major companies including Coca Cola, Verizon, and Unliver have joined the boycott.

On Friday, June 26, Zuckerberg announced the company was introducing two new polices. First, it will ban ads saying people from any specific race, ethnicity, nationality, caste, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration origin are a threat. Second, it will label “newsworthy” posts if they break its guidelines, similar to Twitter.

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