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Mark Zuckerberg denied speculation that he and President Donald Trump have some sort of deal over how Facebook manages the president's posts, calling the allegations "ridiculous."
"I've heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There's no deal of any kind," Zuckerberg told Axios.
Theories about Zuckerberg's and Trump's relationship have been gaining steam since the pair had dinner together last October.
The issue came to a head in May when Trump posted an aggressive message on Facebook to anti-police-brutality protesters, which Facebook refused to flag or remove.
Since then, employees and civil rights groups have publicly voiced their displeasure, and major companies like Starbucks and Ford have pulled their ads from the site.
Mark Zuckerberg slammed speculation that Facebook struck a deal with President Donald Trump that allowed Trump's incendiary posts to stay on the site.
"I've heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There's no deal of any kind," Zuckerberg told Axios' Mike Allen. "Actually, the whole idea of a deal is pretty ridiculous."
The theory that Zuckerberg and Trump have some sort of understanding that allows Trump free rein on the platform in exchange for looser regulation was alleged by sources in a New York Times report last month and has been gaining traction recently, particularly after Facebook's handling of Trump's posts on the platform.
After the killing of George Floyd in May and the nationwide protests that ensued, Trump posted that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," a message Twitter said violated its policies on violence. Zuckerberg refused to remove or flag the posts, citing the company's commitment to free speech on the platform.
But the issue has spiraled in the weeks since, with major brands including Starbucks and Ford pulling their ads from Facebook. The move has also angered civil rights groups and employees, many of whom spoke out publicly against the decision. At least one employee quit in protest.
According to Axios, Zuckerberg addressed employee displeasure at a company-wide Q&A last week. He noted just because he had dinner with Trump last October didn't mean "we have some kind of deal." Zuckerberg also said he is in contact with Trump "from time to time," just as he was with former President Barack Obama, Axios reports.
Zuckerberg also pointed to times in the past Facebook has removed Trump posts from the platform, and highlighted the ways in which the company has been scrutinized under the current administration, including antitrust investigations and a $5 billion fine.
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