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Mark Zuckerberg has a bold new plan to occasionally do something about content that violates Facebook’s policies. Every now and then. When the company feels like it.
In a Friday morning livestream and accompanying post, the CEO seemingly attempted to mollify critics of his decision to allow a post from Donald Trump threatening violence against protesters with a new policy that may or may not address similar posts by the president in the future. Zuckerberg highlighted the fact that, in the past, Facebook has allowed posts that violate its own policies when the posts are deemed to be newsworthy. Going forward, some of those posts will still be left up, but will also be labeled as being in violation of Facebook policy.
Importantly, the new policy announced by Zuckerberg Friday is not particularly clear cut, and leaves ample room for a wide range of interpretations and implementations. In other words, this could usher in a small change at Facebook or no change at all.
“A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm,” wrote Zuckerberg. “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. 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.”
Oh, yeah, and people will still be able to share this theoretical content that violates Facebook’s policies and that is labeled as violating said policies. Presumably, all the people seeing that shared content will also see the explanatory note from Facebook (so, problem solved).
“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,” continued Zuckerberg, “but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.”
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In other words, the next time Donald Trump posts on Facebook about how protesters should be shot, you’ll still be able to share it. But that’s OK, surely, as the post may or may not have some undefined Facebook label.
Thankfully, Zuckerberg decided to take such a decisive action before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, when posts such as these carry extra weight. Heaven forbid he had waited until Wednesday, Nov. 4, to possibly, maybe, sometimes label politicians’ posts that violate his company’s own policies.