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Facebook page that copies President Trump's posts gets flagged for violence – when the president's didn't

Trump lauds Facebook, slams Twitter
Twitter and Facebook take different approaches to inflammatory posts by President Trump 07:50

Facebook and the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg have come under fire in recent weeks after the social media platform declined to take action against President Trump's more inflammatory posts. While Twitter began flagging several of Mr. Trump's tweets for false statements and "glorifying violence," Facebook maintains that his posts do not violate its policies.

Now, a Facebook user has found a creative way to challenge that policy. The "Will they suspend me?" Facebook page was created as an experiment on June 4. The owner of the page copies and pastes all of Mr. Trump's posts verbatim to see if Facebook will flag any for violence or hurtful language.

This is an offshoot of the Twitter account @SuspendthePres, which was created for the same reason — to post the same content as Mr. Trump, to see if Twitter will flag or suspend the account.

On Thursday, one Facebook post, which was taken word-for-word from Mr. Trump's Facebook page, was flagged, a week after it was posted on the "Will they suspend me?" account. 

"I can't stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right," the post read. "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"

Mr. Trump posted the above on his personal Facebook page on May 29 and it was not flagged by Facebook. However, the identical post on the "Will they suspend me?" page was removed.

Experiment Update - Facebook took almost exactly a week but they just issued their first warning. Forced deletion of...

Posted by Will they suspend me? on Thursday, June 11, 2020

Screenshots show that Facebook alerted the "Will they suspend me?" account of the removal, saying the post went against its community standards. The account was notified that if the community standards were violated again, the account would be suspended.

The language in this post was also used in one of Mr. Trump's tweet, which was flagged by Twitter because it "violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence." Twitter also flagged the same language on the @SuspendthePres account. 

Zuckerberg came under fire when declined to take similar steps to flag Mr. Trump's posts on Facebook. The Facebook CEO has long resisted the idea of curtailing free speech on the world's largest social network, even as examples piled up of misinformation and sometimes dangerous and hateful language spreading widely on Facebook.

Some Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest the company's stance, but Zuckerberg has stood by his emphasis on free speech. 

"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," he wrote. "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." 

Zuckerberg said the company did evaluate the presidents' posts about the protests in Minneapolis and determined they did not violate policies. "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.

But while Mr. Trump's posts have not been flagged for violating Facebook policies, the same cannot be said for identical content on "Will they suspend me?"

"To the best of my knowledge, Facebook has yet to take any corrective action against content posted by the President. However, provided that if the same verbatim text posted from a normal account apparently warranted at least an initial disciplinary action it does bring up a whole host of other questions to be addressed by Facebook," the owner of "Will they suspend me?" told CBS News. This person wishes to remain anonymous.

"In their defense, for better or worse, they later did restore the post in question claiming it was an error," the owner of the account said. "No further comment or clarifications were given as to the nature of that error. Was it algorithmic in nature or human error? How was the designation of 'violence and incitement' applied to this content?"

Facebook uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect harmful content that violates community standards. It is unclear whether AI picked up on harmful content in one person's post but missed identical language from a different user. Facebook also relies on human moderators to flag harmful posts. 

In 2019, Facebook announced its AI system had improved, but admitted "the work will never be done."

The owner of the "Will they suspend me?" account said the experiment began simply because they were curious, but has gained international attention and sparked many conversations. 

"It raises far more questions than it does answers" regarding users' rights, censorship of user-generated content and differential treatment of world leaders, the person said. 

"I don't have the answers to these questions. I'm sure many more questions will arise from here as well. My goal isn't to have the answers; it's to simply ask the questions in hopes of finding one," the page's owner said. 

In an email to CBS News, a Facebook representative said the content was removed in error and is now restored.

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