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Facebook employees reportedly criticize stance on not fact-checking Trump's posts

It follows the president signing an executive order after Twitter labeled and hid tweets it deemed as potentially misleading and glorifying violence.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says social media platforms shouldn't be fact-checking the president.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook employees are reportedly unhappy with the social media giant's stance on the fact-checking and warning labels being applied this week to posts by US President Donald Trump about the Minnesota protests and mail-in ballots. Internal message board posts showed employees calling on Facebook execs to explain their stance, The Verge reported Friday.

The internal Facebook complaints follow a week of escalating friction between the president and social media companies, particularly Twitter, a Facebook competitor. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that mail-in ballots would be nothing "less than substantially fraudulent," prompting Twitter to apply a label to the comments saying they contained "potentially misleading information." Trump followed by tweeting that he would take a "big action" against social media companies.

The situation culminated in Trump signing an executive order Thursday targeting social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook. The order instructs the Commerce Department to ask the Federal Communications Commission to repeal or restrict Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from 1996, a law that protects online platforms from liability for content posted by users.

"The censorship and bias is a threat to freedom itself," Trump said at the signing. He accused social media companies of failing to be "neutral platforms."

On Friday morning, Twitter also labelled a tweet by the president about protests and riots in Minnesota over the death of George Floyd in police custody. This time, Twitter hid Trump's tweet after finding it violated its rules about "glorifying violence."

Watch this: Trump issues order to stop alleged 'unchecked power' of Twitter

Social media platforms shouldn't be fact-checking the president, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday.

Facebook employees reportedly used internal message boards to vent frustration at the stance Friday, as well as the absence of an explanation why Trump's tweets on Twitter, which were cross-posted to Facebook, don't violate the social media platform's community standards. 

"All this points to a very high risk of a violent escalation and civil unrest in November," one employee reportedly wrote. "If we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly."

The decision to keep the post about the Minnesota protests up on Facebook reportedly made another employee feel "sad and frankly ashamed." The employee added that "hopefully there is still someone somewhere discussing how and why this is clearly advocating for violence."

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.