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Facebook employees wrangled with execs to remove Trump’s posts as hate speech

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Albert H. Teich /
Employees at Facebook have reportedly been engaged in an intense debate over the past year to remove certain posts by presidential candidate Donald Trump, which they claim break the site’s rules on hate speech.

The posts in question, identified by unnamed sources close to the matter, included Trump’s statements about placing a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S., reports The Wall Street Journal.

The argument was taken directly to management, with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg ruling in December 2015 that any censorship of Trump’s posts would be inappropriate. The decision reportedly caused much outrage, prompting employees to voice their disagreements with their boss on the company’s internal messaging service and in person with Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives. The same sources claim that certain staff members within the company’s content review team threatened to quit over the matter.

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the platform’s reviews process takes into consideration the context of a post, which can include “the value of political discourse,” before judging whether it should be removed.

“Many people are voicing opinions about this particular content and it has become an important part of the conversation around who the next U.S. president will be,” added the spokesperson.

Social media has become the primary news source for the majority of American adults, according to a Pew Research Study published earlier in 2016. As the biggest social network in the world, Facebook inevitably came out on top as the prominent service for news. However, nuance in regard to the news has been a tricky balancing act for the social network, leading to doubts over its reliability as a media provider.

Facebook recently came under fire in Norway for removing an award-winning photo uploaded by a local journalist — and later by the country’s Prime Minister — forcing it to backtrack after the international press picked up the story. Media pressure previously saw the company launch an internal investigation over accusations of bias in regard to its Trending Topics section — an issue that continues to generate controversy due to the feed’s reliance on an algorithm to surface relevant news.

On the other hand, Facebook’s decision on the Trump issue arguably works in its favor, in light of the company being labelled as having an alleged liberal bias. Alongside the reported live video assistance it has given to both Trump and Hilary Clinton’s respective campaigns, the news may finally put to bed such damaging accusations of favoritism.

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