“When people look back at the role Facebook played, they won’t say Facebook caused it, but Facebook was certainly the megaphone,” said Lainer Holt, a communications professor at Ohio State University. “I don’t think there’s any way they can get out of saying that they exacerbated the situation.”
The reports of hateful and violent posts on Facebook started pouring in on the night of May 28 last year, soon after then-President Donald Trump sent a warning on social media that looters in Minneapolis would be shot, as the Associated Press reports.
It had been three days since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes until the 46-year-old Black man lost consciousness, showing no signs of life. A video taken by a bystander had been viewed millions of times online. Protests had taken over Minnesota’s largest city and would soon spread throughout cities across America.
But it wasn’t until after Trump posted about Floyd’s death that the reports of violence and hate speech increased “rapidly” on Facebook across the country, an internal company analysis of the ex-president’s social media post reveals.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote at 9:53 a.m. on May 28 from his Twitter and Facebook accounts. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts the shooting starts!”
Leaked Facebook documents provide a first-hand look at how Trump’s social media posts ignited more anger in an already deeply divided country that was eventually lit “on fire” with reports of hate speech and violence across the platform. Facebook’s own internal, automated controls, meant to catch posts that violate rules, predicted with almost 90% certainty that Trump’s message broke the tech company’s rules against inciting violence.
Yet, the tech giant didn’t take any action on Trump’s message.
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