Mike Issac and Sheera Frankel wrote recently in the New York Times about Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to leave up posts on Facebook that incited violence.
“Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a post to his Facebook page on Friday. “But I’m responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression.” — Mark Zuckerberg
The “divisive and inflammatory rhetoric” was coming from the President of the United States. Twitter has started to put warning labels on these posts. Zuckerberg, in his role as the leader of Facebook, has decided to leave them alone. He has defended his decision in an employee meeting — even when challenged by employees. He spoke with at least one black leader who came away from the meeting “stunned” at Zuckerberg’s lack of understanding about race.
Zuckerberg lives in a bubble of white privilege. He faces no personal consequences for his choices about what he says is free expression but what is really hate speech, speech that incites violence, and speech that has cost lives. He can retreat to a safe neighborhood and sleep well at night.
It’s circumstantial, “merely a coincidence,” but I believe that I can draw a clear line from the President calling out members of the press as “enemies of the people” and the police believing they have the authority to beat up members of the press who are reporting. There’s a clear line between the President signaling his approval of white supremacists and racism and white supremacists feeling empowered and taking racist action.
Facebook gives oxygen to hate speech. It encourages violent people to take action because they find validation on the platform. Zuckerberg believes he is supporting free expression. But the way he is doing this comes along with dangerous baggage.