Mark Zuckerberg defends not suspending Steve Bannon from Facebook

CEO told staffers Bannon had not violated enough policies to justify ban when he called for beheading of Anthony Fauci

Steve Bannon speaks with reporters in New York in August 2020.
Steve Bannon speaks with reporters in New York in August 2020. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/AP
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Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook staffers on Thursday that former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon had not violated enough of the company’s policies to justify his suspension from the platform when he called for the beheading of two US officials and the posting of their heads outside the White House as a “warning”.

Bannon appeared to endorse violence against the FBI director, Christopher Wray, and the infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci on an episode of his podcast on 5 November. The podcast, the War Room, was distributed in video form on a number of social media outlets, including Facebook.

Twitter banned Bannon’s War Room account permanently, saying it had suspended the podcast account for violating its policy on the glorification of violence. Facebook removed the video after about 10 hours online, but did not suspend the account.

“We have specific rules around how many times you need to violate certain policies before we will deactivate your account completely,” Zuckerberg told an all-staff meeting on Thursday. “While the offenses here, I think, came close to crossing that line, they clearly did not cross the line.”

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told Reuters the company would take further action against Bannon’s page “if there are additional violations”.

Last Friday, Facebook took down a network of other Bannon-linked pages that were pushing false claims about the presidential election, after they were flagged by activist group Avaaz.

Avaaz said seven of the largest pages had amassed nearly 2.5 million followers. Stone said Facebook had removed “several clusters of activity for using inauthentic behavior tactics to artificially boost how many people saw their content”.

Bannon could not immediately be reached for comment.

During Thursday’s meeting, Zuckerberg also acknowledged criticism from Joe Biden, and said the company shared some of the Biden team’s concerns about social media.

Biden told the New York Times’ editorial board in December last year that he had “never been a fan of Facebook” and considered Zuckerberg “a real problem”.

Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for the Biden campaign, criticized the social media platform for their handling of the election in a series of tweets on Monday.

“If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after,” he wrote.

Bill Russo (@BillR)

If you thought disinformation on Facebook was a problem during our election, just wait until you see how it is shredding the fabric of our democracy in the days after.

Look at what has happened in just the past week.

November 10, 2020