Facebook has been squeezed by dueling pressures, coming from Trump and activists, both pushing their differing agendas. The recent tension started last month, when Trump posted messages to Facebook and Twitter questioning the validity of mail-in ballots. Twitter removed the message saying it violated its election integrity policies, but Facebook found it did not violate its policies.
Then another message from Trump at the height of the George Floyd protests suggested using violence to quell demonstrations. Trump tweeted and posted to Facebook, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter put a warning on the tweet, while Facebook again had no penalty.
Zuckerberg’s detractors claimed Facebook was too cozy with the White House, while rival Twitter appeared to draw a more forceful approach to cleaning up the platform for the 2020 election.
Now, Facebook says it has a new policy that could give it similar powers to Twitter to mark Trump posts and other messages that go outside the lines.
"Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms," Zuckerberg wrote. "We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. 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."
This is a stance that Facebook has tried to explain in the past—that politicians are sharing messages that the public should see, and that the best course of action would be to fight offensive speech with smarter speech. Carolyn Everson, Facebook's VP of global business group, sent an email to advertisers just this week talking about Facebook's view on the Trump messages.
"I fully recognize there are some people that remain incredibly disappointed that we did not take the Trump post about looting/shooting down," Everson wrote in the email obtained by Ad Age. "However, the best way to counter offensive (but not rule breaking) political speech is to scrutinize and challenge it. That is exactly what has happened. And please know we have taken action before that specific Trump post and on others since. If it violates our policy, we take it down."
Trump has been vexed by social platforms in recent weeks. A Wall Street Journal report said his campaign was looking for new ways to get his message out on new digital platforms, like one called Parler. Republican lawmakers have been promoting the fringe messaging service.
Trump has even signed an executive order targeting internet sites for moderating his content.
Facebook will be able to stamp its warning label on any posts it finds violates policies. The new Facebook policy, however, does not have the same mechanism that Twitter has that prevents those messages from being retweeted or commented upon.
"Overall, the policies we're implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they're showing up across our community," Zuckerberg wrote. "I'm committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other. But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and we're committed to removing that no matter where it comes from."
Adrianne Pasquarelli, George P. Slefo, Jack Neff and E.J. Schultz contributed to this report.