In a meeting with Facebook employees this week, Mark Zuckerberg explained why, unlike Twitter, the company had not moved to permanently ban conservative blowhard and onetime White House advisor Steve Bannon from the platform, following comments he made last week about beheading Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
In a video linked to Bannon's podcast that was posted to both Facebook and Twitter last Thursday, Bannon suggested beheading Fauci and Wray in punishment for their perceived disloyalty to the president — or because they prefer truth over Trump's fictions?
"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," Bannon said. "You either get with the program or you are gone."
Twitter responded by both removing the offending video and permanently suspending Bannon's account, while Facebook only removed the video.
As Reuters reports via a recording of the all-hands meeting at Facebook, Zuckerberg said, "We have specific rules around how many times you need to violate certain policies before we will deactivate your account completely. While the offenses here, I think, came close to crossing that line, they clearly did not cross the line."
It's yet another instance of Facebook kowtowing to conservatives who have spent the last several years crowing about their "free speech" rights being infringed upon because of social media companies' liberal bias — even though Facebook has clear rules about the incitement of violence. Facebook also had clear rules about misinformation about voting and the results of the election, but so far it's just put some weak fact-check labels on Trump's tweets and let him and his followers go on all-caps screaming that he won the election.
As Jennifer Grygiel, a social media professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse Schoo, tells CNN, "These are instances of speech that are just so egregious... It’s showing the pressure Zuckerberg is under. Steve Bannon has proved that he abuses the platform. I would really like Mark Zuckerberg to show some accountability in not letting people harm the public and society in such a way."
A spokesperson for Bannon, Alexandra Preate, said in a statement that Bannon "would not and has never called for violence of any kind," and that the statements last week were "clearly meant metaphorically."
Facebook declined to comment on the leaked meeting recording, but company spokesperson Andy Stone told Reuters that Bannon could be banned "if there are additional violations."
Zuckerberg spoke further in the meeting about the potential for stricter regulation of social media and tech companies under a Biden Administration, and he seemed dismissive of these worries — unlike when he was contemplating a Warren Administration last fall. In the recording he referred to the incoming administration as "not monolithic," and in reference to Biden's earlier comments about not being a big fan of Facebook, he said, "Just because some people might talk in a way that’s more antagonistic to us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that speaks for what the whole group or whole administration is going to stand for."
Last week, Facebook faced criticism for leaving live a Facebook Group called Stop the Steal which was amplifying the president's baseless claims that votes were being mishandled or tampered with, and that Democrats were stealing the election. The group gained 350,000 followers in the span of one day, before the company finally decided to take it down.
Earlier this week, Biden's deputy press secretary Bill Russo lambasted Facebook for its handling of post-election misinformation, and its failure to fulfill its promise to stop the amplification of falsehoods about who won the election before it was decided.
"If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after," Russo wrote in a Twitter thread. "We knew this would happen. We pleaded with Facebook for over a year to be serious about these problems. They have not."
Top photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives his opening statement remotely during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing with big tech companies October 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee was discussing reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)