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Facebook, Instagram Leave Trump’s Threat About Shooting Minneapolis Protesters Unchecked

Todd Spangler

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While Twitter put Donald Trump in a penalty box for a tweet advocating violence against crowds Minneapolis protesters, Facebook and Instagram for now have left up the same message from the president on their services without any similar warning.

Trump, responding to protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by city police, said in posts early Friday morning on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that he had pledged military support to the state to quell the unrest. The president called the agitators in Minneapolis “THUGS” and concluded, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

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Twitter, about two hours later, applied a warning label hiding Trump’s tweet that referenced “looting” and “shooting,” explaining that it violated the service’s rules about glorifying violence. Twitter cited “the risk it could inspire similar actions today” in explaining why it took the action.

Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The relevant portion of Facebook’s Community Guidelines reads, “While we understand that people commonly express disdain or disagreement by threatening or calling for violence in non-serious ways, we remove language that incites or facilitates serious violence. We remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company will not fact-check political speech (including political ads). Perhaps angling to escape Trump’s wrath, Zuckerberg, in interviews that aired Thursday on Fox News Channel and CNBC, made a point in both appearances to highlight Facebook’s no-fact-check stance on political figures.

“We have a different policy I think than Twitter on this,” Zuckerberg said on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing” show. “You know, I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online… We’ve been pretty clear on our policy that we think that it wouldn’t be right for us to do fact-checks for politicians.”

The message was not lost on Trump, who quoted Zuckerberg’s comment about Twitter in social-media posts Thursday evening, adding the rhetorical question, “Did Twitter criticize Obama for his ‘you can keep your Dr.’?”

Trump has a smaller footprint on Facebook (29.5 million followers) and Instagram (19.9 million) than he does on Twitter, his favored platform, where he currently has 80.4 million followers.

Twitter’s move to apply fact-checking labels to a pair of inaccurate Trump tweets about mail-in ballots prompted the president to retaliate with an executive order seeking to rescind the legal protections social networks have under current U.S. law if they “censor” speech. Experts say Trump’s order is unconstitutional, representing a legal overreach by the executive branch.

Below are Trump’s posts on Facebook and Instagram warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which evoked the same comment by Miami’s police chief in the late ’60s about suppressing civil unrest:


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