Facebook to label but leave up ‘newsworthy’ posts that violate policies

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday that the platform will label but leave up posts deemed “newsworthy” that violate company policies, a major reversal that comes after weeks of criticism.

“We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society — but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.”

He pointed specifically to posts from politicians, writing that “we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm.”

Zuckerberg emphasized though that politicians and government officials are not exempt from the new policy, and their posts will be taken down if the company determines it could incite violence or lead to voter suppression.

While Zuckerberg did not mention President Trump, the reversal comes as the platform was facing growing criticism for not taking action to label posts from Trump that violate Facebook policies.

Facebook has recently faced a wide-ranging advertising boycott over allegations that it has not done enough to combat hate speech.

Zuckerberg detailed new policies to take action on this issue as well, announcing that Facebook was expanding its advertising policies to ban “claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.”

The advertising policy will also be expanded to ensure that immigrants, asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees are not targeted with ads directing disgust or intimidation at them. 

The company took further action as well to prevent online voter suppression tactics as part of its racial justice work, with Zuckerberg announcing that any posts showing evidence of coordinated election interference, immigrant intimidation at the polls, or those detailing fake polling places will be removed.

“Learning from our experience fighting Covid misinformation, we will partner with and rely on state election authorities to help determine the accuracy of information and what is potentially dangerous,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We know this will be challenging in practice as facts on the ground may be uncertain and we don’t want to remove accurate information about challenges people are experiencing, but we’re building our operation to be able to respond quickly.”

Facebook earlier this month announced its new “Voting Information Center,” which is meant to provide authoritative information to users on how and where to vote. 

Zuckerberg said Friday that information on the voting center will be at the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds for the next few months, and that a link to the voting center will be added to any elections-focused posts, including those from politicians.

Trump has come under fire for posting negative comments about mail-in voting in recent weeks, with the president condemning the practice and claiming without evidence it could lead to widespread voter fraud. 

Twitter has taken steps in recent weeks to label misinformation in Trump’s tweets on mail-in voting and other topics, putting more pressure on Facebook to take action. 

Trump and other Republicans have railed at Twitter, with the president signing an executive order last month that would make significant reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a clause that shields online platforms from legal action over user posts. 

Zuckerberg earlier this month defended the company’s previous policy not to take action over some of Trump’s Facebook posts, particularly one that Twitter labeled for inciting violence against individuals participating in protests stemming from the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis. 

Many Facebook employees and civil rights groups pushed back against Facebook’s decision at the time, with Jason Toff, director of product management, tweeting that he was “not proud” of the company’s position.

—Updated at 3:41 p.m.

Tags Criticism of Facebook Donald Trump Facebook Mark Zuckerberg misinformation

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