Posted by David Oates 4 weeks ago

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Amidst other news of the week, this little story about how Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg inserted a ginormous foot in his mouth got pushed aside.

At its core appears the idea that, while Mark personally found Holocaust deniers abhorrent and offensive, he felt compelled to allow their hateful speech a platform on the popular social media property under the guise of free speech. Thankfully, his sister disagreed.

Does that mean a rift exists within Zuckerbergland? I seriously doubt it. Instead, I submit that Mark understandably tried to accommodate differing points of view in the spirit of civil discourse. So long as the diatribe didn’t get classified as news, so be it.

Fair enough if the vehicle in question by which the neo-Nazis transmitted their message was a street corner, public building or permitted rally. Last time I checked, though, Facebook is a publicly-traded company beholden only to its customers and shareholders. In other words, Mark, like the neighborhood restaurant, retains the right to refuse service to certain folks, so long as it is not based on race, creed, or color. 

Zuckerberg’s failure to do so caused a significant backlash and led investors as well as account holders confused as to what he, and by extension, the company, believes. These events can hamper revenue and engagement, to big “no-no’s” for any business, but most certainly Facebook’s.

PR practitioners take note. While in most cases, companies don’t want to put their political or social views in the forefront of their offering, certain circumstances warrant it, most notably for matters of race, religion, and gender. Zuckerberg and his management team shouldn’t hesitate for a moment to call out those still believing the Holocaust didn’t happen and go out of their way to stop the promulgation of their vitriol. In turn, the majority of their users will support Facebook even more and certainly offset any account holder who cancels their subscription in protest. Haters are gonna hate, and companies shouldn’t be afraid to call it out when necessary.

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