This has been an incredibly tough week after a string of tough weeks. The killing of George Floyd showed yet again that for Black people in America, just existing means risking your life. This comes weeks after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and in the midst of Covid having a disproportionate impact on the Black community in the US. It continues a long and devastating history of human loss going back centuries. I know the conversations happening amongst our Black friends, colleagues and neighbors are incredibly painful. As Americans, this affects all of us and we all have an obligation to help address the inequality in how justice is served. This is something I care deeply about.
I’ve been struggling with how to respond to the President’s tweets and posts all day. Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. This moment calls for unity and calmness, and we need empathy for the people and communities who are hurting. We need to come together as a country to pursue justice and break this cycle.
But I’m responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression. I know many people are upset that we’ve left the President’s posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies. We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies. Although the post had a troubling historical reference, we decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force. Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today’s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be. The President later posted again, saying that the original post was warning about the possibility that looting could lead to violence. We decided that this post, which explicitly discouraged violence, also does not violate our policies and is important for people to see. Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician. We have been in touch with the White House today to explain these policies as well.
There are heated debates about how we apply our policies during moments like this. I know people are frustrated when we take a long time to make these decisions. These are difficult decisions and, just like today, the content we leave up I often find deeply offensive. We try to think through all the consequences, and we keep our policies under constant review because the context is always evolving. People can agree or disagree on where we should draw the line, but I hope they understand our overall philosophy is that it is better to have this discussion out in the open, especially when the stakes are so high. I disagree strongly with how the President spoke about this, but I believe people should be able to see this for themselves, because ultimately accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinized out in the open.