On May 29th, President Trump posted a controversial message on both Facebook and Twitter. The two companies have responded differently to the challenge of whether the post should remain. The post reads “….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Trump’s remark appears to support the use of lethal force for suppressing the riots. It is also controversial because the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was used by George Wallace, segregationist governor of Alabama, during his 1968 presidential campaign. He was echoing Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, who had a racist history.
Twitter decided to put a warning label on the tweet without banning it from the site. It reads, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” The label covers the post until a user clicks to reveal it.
In contrast, Facebook decided to leave the Tweet on its site. Zuckerberg’s decision to leave the post angered many Facebook employees who felt that it directly encouraged violence. Zuckerberg explained his philosophy behind his decision in a long Facebook post that explained Zuckerberg’s feeling that the message was deeply offensive, but it should remain on Facebook because the public has a need for understanding what the government’s response to the rioting might be. He also expressed the view that allowing offensive posts by politicians to be seen is a necessary way for holding them accountable for their views.