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Report: Facebook pleaded with Trump to tone down George Floyd post

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  • Facebook executives haggled with Trump over a post about the George Floyd protests in which he said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” The Washington Post reports.
  • Facebook deputies called the White House, asking Trump to either tone down the language or delete the post altogether, sources told The Post.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Trump the post put Facebook in a difficult position.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook tried to convince President Donald Trump to tone down the language in his May post that threatened George Floyd protesters with violence, The Washington Post reports.

Sources familiar with the matter told The Post that high-ranking Facebook executives rang the White House and tried to convince the president to either tone down the aggressive language in the post — which said “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” —  or delete it entirely. The Post did not specify which executives made the calls, but said they were “deputies.”

Sources also told The Post that CEO Mark Zuckerberg subsequently told Donald Trump in a phone call that the post put Facebook in a difficult position. Axios reported on May 31 that Zuckerberg had called Trump personally, but it did not report the details of the call.

Trump wrote the post in late May, as the George Floyd protests were beginning in Minneapolis. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump’s post said, a phrase coined by a racist Miami police chief in the 1960s. Trump’s team denied he knew the origin of the phrase.

Twitter placed the post behind a clickthrough block, saying it violated its terms on “glorifying violence.” Facebook decided to leave it untouched, prompting outrage from civil rights groups and its own employees.

After the call with Zuckerberg, Trump posted a followup saying the language had been intended as a warning to citizens because he was bringing in the National Guard. Zuckerberg later cited this in a blog post justifying Facebook’s decision to leave Trump’s post alone.

The Post’s report suggests Trump’s political career has been molding Facebook’s policies on hate speech and misinformation as far back as 2015. Facebook denies this.

“The Washington Post’s insinuation that we developed policies intended to please the Trump administration is wrong,” a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider.

“While many Republicans think we should do one thing and many Democrats want us to the do just the opposite, our job is to create one common set of rules that applies equally to everyone. We don’t believe Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or any technology company should determine what words people should or shouldn’t see from their elected leaders in a democracy.”

The way Facebook moderates posts from Trump that appear to break its guidelines has led to a growing advertising boycott, with major companies like Coca-Cola, Unliver, and Verizon pulling their ads from the platform.

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