Snap CEO Says Exercising Free Speech Rights by Limiting Trump

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(Bloomberg) -- Snap Inc. Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel said the company was exercising its First Amendment right to free speech when it decided not to amplify President Donald Trump’s content to a broader audience -- and he’s surprised other social media sites aren’t willing to do the same.

Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have been embroiled in controversy over their handling of Trump’s message, that said in part, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” as protests were gaining steam over racial injustice and police violence. Twitter put a warning label on the tweet, while Facebook declined to do so, prompting backlash from its employees. Spiegel took a broader approach, saying if Trump wanted to promote violence and racism on Twitter, Snapchat didn’t need to post his views on its Discover page.

Snap CEO Says Exercising Free Speech Rights by Limiting Trump

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been reluctant to fact check or remove content from politicians, citing free speech principles. Spiegel said the First Amendment actually protects the speech of companies against government censorship.

“I’ve been surprised that other platforms are less willing to exercise their First Amendment rights to decide what’s right and wrong,” Spiegel said in an interview. “We would be devastated if we felt like our products were being used to do bad things in the world.”

After two of Trump’s tweets about mail-in voting were fact-checked by Twitter, the president issued an executive order aiming to remove legal protections from technology companies regarding content posted on their sites. Spiegel said the White House is aware of Snap’s position. “The government is explicitly threatening private platforms about exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said.

On Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a statement asking Facebook to remove more political misinformation, especially with regards to voting, and to make no exceptions for the president. Facebook responded by saying the Trump team has asked for the exact opposite.

“The people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them,” Facebook said in a statement. “There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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