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Facebook rep says Trump’s Muslim registry is a ‘straw man’

Spokesperson dismisses idea of a Muslim database in email accidentally sent to BuzzFeed News

President-Elect Donald Trump Attends Annual Army Navy Football Game Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Update 3:30PM ET, 12/14: A Facebook spokesperson has since clarified the company’s position on the record, saying in a statement, “No one has asked us to build a Muslim registry, and of course we would not do so.”

A Facebook spokesperson appeared to dismiss President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim registry as a “straw man” in an email accidentally sent to BuzzFeed News, and advised his colleagues against responding on the record to an inquiry from reporter Nitasha Tiku. The inadvertent comment comes after nearly 60 employees at major tech companies signed a pledge on Tuesday to not help the government “build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs.”

The email from BuzzFeed News inquired whether Facebook would pledge to not participate in the creation of a federal registry of Muslims — an idea that has been floated by the incoming Trump administration — and whether it would place limits on the data it shares for religious targeting. In a report from The Intercept earlier this month, Facebook was one of eight tech companies that declined to comment when asked whether they would help the Trump administration to build the registry. (Twitter was the only company to say that it wouldn’t.)

The email to BuzzFeed News, apparently intended for internal use, seemed to dismiss the notion of such a registry:

Happy to talk to her off record about why this is attacking a straw man. Also I heard back from her that she may or may not write an additional piece depending on what response she gets from companies. So sounds like not making any stmt on record is the way to go.

The spokesperson later asked that the email be considered off the record, and the company declined to comment.

It is not clear whether Trump intends to build a Muslim registry once he comes into office, though his campaign has left the possibility open. In November, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told Reuters that the Trump transition team is considering reinstating a federal database of immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, which existed from 2002 to 2011.

A group of tech executives — including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Alphabet CEO Larry Page — is scheduled to meet with Trump on Wednesday. According to Recode, the executives will discuss “jobs and the economy” with the president-elect, and have “no firm agenda.”