Trump makes a Facebook friend

Fully Charged

Hey all, it's Kurt. Back in early June, a few days after U.S. president Donald Trump posted on Facebook and Twitter that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," many Facebook Inc. employees were furious that the company didn't remove the post for violating the company's rules on encouraging and glorifying violence. It looked like the president was receiving special treatment.

That's certainly how Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden felt. "You seem to have carved out an exception for Donald Trump that permits him to abuse your platform because he is the president," said Biden's campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon, in a private letter to the company on June 5.

"But it is surely clear that precisely because Donald Trump is the president, these abuses take on major significance, having clear potential to 'cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers,'" she continued, quoting Facebook's talking points. "Your own platform expands that significance, as its algorithm immediately brings President Trump's proclamations and incitements to tens of millions of Americans." 

My colleague Sarah Frier and I obtained this letter as part of an investigation that published Thursday on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. It's one of many that the Biden campaign sent to Facebook leaders over the summer, accusing the company of applying more lenient standards to the president. And it's part of a larger trend of politicians, activists and others calling on the social network to grapple with Trump's habit of posting misleading and potentially dangerous information on social media.  

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg would later say he disagreed with Trump's language on "looting" and "shooting," but didn't feel it violated Facebook's policies.

Our research—as well as other reporting from outlets including the Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed and the New York Times—surfaced examples big and small of Facebook catering to the party in power when making decisions, not just in the U.S. but around the world. And when it comes to Washington, Facebook and Zuckerberg have routinely declined to enforce the company's policies against the president.

In a separate letter to Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg dated June 29, O'Malley Dillon pointed out multiple examples of Trump sharing misleading voting information, which Facebook did not act on, despite policies banning such content. "We have watched in recent months as Facebook's actions have not met its promises," O'Malley Dillon wrote.

Facebook pushed back on our story, and said that the company does not play political favorites, adding that it has gone to great lengths to prepare for the election. Facebook launched a voter registration campaign, for example, with the lofty goal of registering 4 million Americans ahead of election day. It's also created a voting information center, where people can find accurate information on the voting process, and eventually see election-night results from Reuters.

And after Russian trolls used fake accounts to try to sway the 2016 election, Facebook is now catching more coordinated influence campaigns, and today requires all political advertisers to register with the company. 

But whether or not it's able to mitigate election risks, Facebook's seeming coziness with Trump could cause other headaches for the company. O'Malley Dillon's letters suggest that if Biden is elected, his administration is likely to view Facebook has having helped its rival. Unlike Trump, whom Zuckerberg has spoken to a number of times in recent months, Biden and Facebook's CEO have not spoken all year, people familiar with the matter have said.

As Clegg argued in an interview last week, that actually makes sense. "Whether people agree with it or not, or like it or not, [Trump] is the president of the United States," he said. "If Mark didn't have any contact with the president of the United States that, in my view, would be a newsworthy piece of news."

In other words, Trump is the president. Biden is not. At least for now. —Kurt Wagner


If you read one thing

Oracle's bid for TikTok doesn't resolve all of the Trump administration's security concerns, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the deal talks. The details are still in flux, however, and the companies believe they can push through an agreement. In the deal's current iteration, Oracle would get access to TikTok's source code, partly to ensure there are no backdoors in the system.  

And here's what you need to know in global technology news

Software company Snowflake is now worth more than $70 billion on the public markets after an initial public offering Wednesday that saw its share price soar as much as 166%

Not all WeChat users would be affected by the prohibitions Trump has proposed for the app via executive order, the U.S. said

Facebook's new VR headset is lighter, faster and cheaper than its predecessors. 



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