The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Condemns Mark Zuckerberg's Decision to Continue Publishing President Trump's Tweets Glorifying Violence

Lawyers’ Committee Applauds Twitter’s Action in Response to President Trump’s Racist and Violent Tweets, Condemns Facebook’s Business As Usual Arrogance


The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law responds to a statement issued on Friday night by Mark Zuckerberg outlining Facebook's decision to continue publishing President Trump's statements calling for for violence against Minneapolis protesters in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police officers. In matching posts on Twitter and Facebook this morning, President Trump referred to protesters as thugs, threatened to send in the military and concluded by stating that, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

"Social media companies have a responsibility to ensure that their platforms are not used to incite violence against people of color, even when such threats come from the White House," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "In no uncertain terms, we condemn Mark Zuckerberg's decision to continue publishing President Trump's statements inciting and glorifying violence in ways that could prove harmful to African American communities. Facebook has once again failed to act against an explicit violation of its own rules and has allowed the violent and racist post to remain up. Twitter is setting an important norm that, if it continues to follow through, will help build online dialogue that aligns with our national values and the rule of law."

In his statement, Zuckerberg stated: "Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician."

Twitter promptly took appropriate enforcement action against this tweet for violating its rules against glorifying violence. It hid the tweet behind a warning label, but did not take it down because the company has a perceived newsworthiness exception that applies when when the president of the United States--or certain other government officials--engage in incitement of state-sponsored violence against African Americans or other groups.

President Trump posted the same message on Facebook and it violates Facebook's Community Standards, including a prohibition on incitement of violence. However, despite the incident being immediately reported to the platform, Facebook has so-far, failed to take any action. This is not the first time Facebook has failed to act when President Trump violated its community standards. Recently, Facebook took no action when President Trump spread disinformation about absentee voting and threatened public officials in Michigan and Nevada. In 2018, Facebook took no action when President Trump ran a political ad that used racist imagery and stereotypes about immigrants.

The use of the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" is no accident. It has a charged and racist history as a threat of violence against African Americans. In 1967, Miami Chief of Police, Walter Headley, used the phrase to embrace police brutality and threaten the unjust use of force against African Americans, or as he put it, a "shotgun crackdown on Negro slum hoodlums."

The Lawyers' Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar's leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity - work that continues to be vital today.

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