Reported in the WallStreet Journal on Friday, 10/21/2016 is a story about Facebook censorship of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. It seems Trump posts on Facebook have set off an intense debate inside the Facebook company itself over the past year, with some of Facebook Muslim employees arguing certain posts about banning Muslims from entering the U.S. should be censored for violating the site’s rules on hate speech, according to people familiar with the matter.
The decision to allow Mr. Trump’s posts went all the way to Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who ruled in December 2015 that it would be inappropriate to censor the candidate, according to the people familiar with this issue. It has come to light recently this week that decision prompted employees across the company to complain on Facebook’s internal messaging service and in person to Mr. Zuckerberg and other managers that it was bending the site’s rules for Mr. Trump. Some employees who work in the group charged with reviewing content on Facebook threatened to quit, this comes straight from Facebook employees.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s campaign said “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.”
On Friday, senior members of Facebook’s policy team posted more details on its policy. “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,” they wrote. The internal debates shed light on how Facebook has grappled with its position as one of the biggest sources of political information during a particularly contentious election cycle.
This week, a controversy bubbled up around Facebook director Peter Thiel, who recently pledged $1.25 million to support Mr. Trump. In an internal post to employees confirmed by the company, Mr. Zuckerberg urged tolerance of Mr. Thiel’s political activity, saying it was key to cultivating diversity. Facebook declined to comment further on the matter, and Mr. Thiel didn’t respond to a request for comment.
According to Nomura analysts Facebook—which stands to collect an estimated $300 million from online political advertising this year, has striven to appear nonpartisan and neutral, amid complaints that the company and key executives favor Democrats. A May report from tech blog Gizmodo alleged Facebook contract workers, most of whom are foreign nationals manipulated its trending topics feature for political purposes. Facebook denied bias, but in August, fired the contractors so that it could run the feature largely by software.
“They are confronting in a very real way for the first time the political dimensions of their platform,” said Anna Lauren Hoffmann, who teaches information ethics at the University of California, Berkeley. About 44% of Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook, according to Pew Research.
The company insists it is a neutral platform for open debate. Yet it has strict rules around what users can post. The rules, which Facebook has tightened in recent years, ban discrimination toward people based on their race and religion. Facebook typically removes content that violates the rules.
Legal experts say Facebook isn’t bound by the Federal Communications Commission’s equal-time rules, which require radio stations and broadcast networks, with exceptions, to devote the same airtime to political candidates.
The issue that got Facebook foreign nationals who work for Facebook riled up were Mr. Trump’s posts which were posted on Facebook a link to a Dec. 7 campaign statement “on preventing Muslim immigration.” The statement 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.” Mr. Trump has since backed away from an outright ban based on religion, saying his policies would target immigrants from countries with a record of terrorism. I wonder who could object to that? Oh yes that’s right, Muslims would object to that.
Suddenly Republicans and Conservatives everywhere feel vindicated because the truth that conservative news has been censored for years is finally admitted and somewhat finally stopped by Zuckerberg.