The Facebook page “Will They Suspend Me,” which posts the tweets of President Donald Trump verbatim as an extension of a similarly named Twitter account, was issued a warning Thursday almost a week after it posted Trump’s May 29 tweet describing protesters as “THUGS” and threatening a violent intervention in Minneapolis after the police killing of George Floyd.
The account received a message stating that the post, which went online June 4, had gone against “Community Standards on violence and incitement” and was classified as “content that leads to a genuine risk of physical harm or a direct threat to public safety.” The offending post was forcibly deleted, and the account holder was warned that a further violation would disrupt posting privileges for 24 hours.
The same day the post was deleted, it was reinstated. A Facebook spokesperson clarified to HuffPost that the post “was removed in error and is now restored.” The spokesperson was unable to clarify whether the post was flagged by a human or by Facebook’s algorithm.
The disappearance and reappearance of the post on Facebook can be compared with Twitter’s handling of the incident in which @SuspendThePres’s offending tweet containing the president’s verbatim language was deleted 68 hours after it was posted and the account was hit with a 12-hour lock.
On Twitter, Trump’s original tweet featuring the “THUGS” remark remains online with a disclaimer indicating that “it may be in the public’s interest for the tweet to remain accessible.” On Trump’s Facebook page, which largely posts the same content as his Twitter, the post is also visible but with no warning.
The brain behind both accounts, who is also active on Twitter as @BizarreLazer, began reposting Trump’s tweets on the @SuspendThePres account on May 29 before replicating the project on Facebook. In private exchanges with HuffPost, the account holder said that they are a U.S. citizen, preferred to remain anonymous “to allow the experiment to stand for itself” and explained that the project was inspired by the president’s executive order against social media companies and was intended to test the limits, algorithms and content policies of both Twitter and Facebook.
The account holder initially speculated that Facebook’s deletion of the post “may be the first time Facebook has taken corrective action against content written by the president.” When the post was reinstated, the account holder hypothesized that it had returned only “after a lot of attention was put on it being removed.”
“Was it [a] human operator’s error in dropping a violence designation on it or did the algorithm kick it out?” the account holder asked in private messages with HuffPost.
Facebook’s decision to keep Trump’s controversial post on its platform with no disclaimer has drawn criticism, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the move in late May by arguing that the president’s words did not specifically call for people to attack protesters and therefore did not violate company policy.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote at the time.
Following Zuckerberg’s statement, Facebook employees took to Twitter to denounce this logic, and one of the company’s engineers, Timothy Aveni, announced his decision to resign, stating, “Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act on increasingly dangerous rhetoric.”
In response, Zuckerberg made a new post on June 5 emphasizing that the company would “review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions.”