Mark Zuckerberg Defends Not Suspending Steve Bannon for Death Threat

Mark Zuckerberg is on the defense after Facebook did not suspend Steve Bannon. Bannon called for the beheading of US officials.

If you avidly believe that Facebook doesn’t have a pro-conservative bias, this latest incident isn’t going to help your case. Former Donald Trump aide, Steve Bannon, made some gruesome remarks earlier this month. Bannon commented that FBI director, Christopher Wray, and infectious disease control expert, Anthony Fauci, should be beheaded. Bannon said in a video, “I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you are gone”

So, the question is, does this violate the rules? According to Facebook’s own community standards, we see the following relevant sections:

1. Violence and Incitement

We aim to prevent potential offline harm that may be related to content on Facebook. 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.

In another section, we also see the following:

3. Coordinating Harm and Publicizing Crime

In an effort to prevent and disrupt offline harm and copycat behavior, we prohibit people from facilitating, organizing, promoting, or admitting to certain criminal or harmful activities targeted at people, businesses, property or animals

This does, obviously, violate the rules surrounding inciting violence, but there is also language in the rules that allows for wiggle room – likely by design. At any rate, Bannon’s page is still up.

According to Reuters, Mark Zuckerberg defended the decision not to suspend the account:

Facebook FB.O Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told an all-staff meeting on Thursday that former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon had not violated enough of the company’s policies to justify his suspension when he urged beheading two senior U.S. officials, according to a recording heard by Reuters.

Zuckerberg acknowledged criticism of Facebook by President-elect Joe Biden but said the company shared some of the Biden team’s same concerns about social media. He urged employees not to jump to conclusions about how the new administration might approach regulation of social media companies.

“We have specific rules around how many times you need to violate certain policies before we will deactivate your account completely,” Zuckerberg said. “While the offenses here, I think, came close to crossing that line, they clearly did not cross the line.”

While Zuckerberg was justifying not suspending Bannon’s account after the incident, other platforms were not so forgiving. According to TechCrunch, Twitter suspended Bannon’s account and YouTube removed Bannon’s show:

Former presidential advisor and right-wing pundit Steve Bannon had his show suspended from Twitter and an episode removed by YouTube after calling for violence against FBI director Christopher Wray and the government’s leading pandemic expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Twitter confirmed that it has “permanently suspended” (i.e. it can be appealed but won’t be restored automatically) the account for violating the rule against glorifying violence.

YouTube removed the episode from “Steve Bannon’s War Room” channel Wednesday afternoon after it was brought to their attention. A representative for the platform said “We’ve removed this video for violating our policy against inciting violence. We will continue to be vigilant as we enforce our policies in the post-election period.”

This isn’t the first time Facebook decided against suspending accounts of people who advocated murder. Last September, Facebook refused to suspend the account owned by GOP lawmaker, Clay Higgins who advocated for the mass murder of protesters. While the threat itself was removed, no further action was taken that we are aware of.

At any rate, both incidences play into the narrative that Facebook coddles people of certain political leanings. For critics of Facebook, this is part of a much broader well-established pattern of giving preferential treatment to such individuals. At any rate, it is unsettling to see people issuing death threats and all they get is a simple wrap on the wrist for it. This is especially so given that uttering such threats can be considered illegal for a lot of people. For now, it seems that individuals like Bannon are free to make further comments that are, at minimum, in extremely poor taste.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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