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WSJ: Facebook Employees Pushed to Have Trump Anti-Muslim Posts Removed

WSJ: Facebook Employees Pushed to Have Trump Anti-Muslim Posts Removed

(AP)

By    |   Friday, 21 October 2016 10:51 PM

Facebook employees worked to have Donald Trump's anti-Muslim posts removed as hate speech, but they were eventually overruled against censoring the Republican candidate by co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

"Banning a U.S. presidential candidate is not something you do lightly," a person said of the fallout over a Dec. 7 post to The Wall Street Journal.

Trump's post linked to a campaign statement "on preventing Muslim immigration."

It called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on."

Facebook users slammed the post as hate speech, the Journal reports, drawing employee complaints that it had violated company policies on such content.

But employees were asked by their managers to not remove the post — and Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, later explained that no Trump posts would be removed because the company sought to remain impartial in the presidential election, the Journal reports.

The following month, a Muslim employee challenged Zuckerberg on why the post was retained at an employee town hall meeting at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

Zuckerberg said he backed Bickert's decision, though he "acknowledged that Mr. Trump's call for a ban did qualify as hate speech," the Journal reports.

He said that "the implications of removing [the posts] were too drastic," according to the report.

Facebook told the Journal that content reviewers assess the context of a post before any are removed.

"That context can include the value of political discourse," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Many people are voicing opinions about this particular content and it has become an important part of the conversation around who the next U.S. president will be."

The company also posted this statement on Friday: "In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest—even if they might otherwise violate our standards."

In May, Facebook was accused of bias toward conservative groups in its trending topics feature. The company denied the allegations and now operates its topics feature primarily by software.

"They are confronting in a very real way for the first time the political dimensions of their platform," Anna Lauren Hoffmann, a lecturer who teaches information ethics at the University of California-Berkeley, told the Journal.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman told the Journal that "Facebook has never contacted us about employee complaints and has never removed a post.

"We are not concerned about the liberal Clinton elites who are so intolerant of conservative ideas that they would seek to censor the Trump campaign’s enormously successful Facebook engagement."

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Facebook employees worked to have Donald Trump's anti-Muslim posts removed as hate speech, but they were eventually overruled against censoring the Republican candidate by co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
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Friday, 21 October 2016 10:51 PM
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