Dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday to send a message to CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as y’all’s president that they are not OK with giving the latter a platform to threaten or incite violence against protestors.
Many of you have seen the message President Donald Trump posted to Twitter and Facebook regarding nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. His statement—which includes the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”—was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence.” The post wasn’t removed because “Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” but the social media platform made its stance on the matter clear when it posted the following:
“This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”
The post was handled differently on Facebook—which is to say, it wasn’t really handled at all.
“Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,” Zuckerberg posted to his Facebook page on Friday. “But I’m responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression.”
According to the New York Times, many Facebook employees feel differently about Trump’s posts and are taking their own actions to address the company’s indifference to what they rightfully consider a dangerous message.
From the Times:
The employees, who said they refused to work in order to show their support for demonstrators across the country, added an automated message to their digital profiles and email responses saying that they were out of the office in a show of protest.
The protest group — conducting a virtual “walkout” of sorts since most Facebook employees are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic — was one of a number of clusters of employees pressing Facebook executives to take a tougher stand on Mr. Trump’s posts.
Inside the company, staff members have circulated petitions and threatened to resign, and a number of employees wrote publicly about their unhappiness on Twitter and elsewhere. More than a dozen current and former employees have described the unrest as the most serious challenge to the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, since the company was founded 15 years ago.
“The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the US President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,” one Facebook employee wrote in an internal message board, the Times reports.
Facebook engineer Lauren Tan tweeted her own frustrations over her company’s failure to protect people instead of speech.
“Facebook’s inaction in taking down Trump’s post inciting violence makes me ashamed to work here,” she wrote. “I enjoy the technical parts of my job and working alongside smart/kind people, but this isn’t right. Silence is complicity.”
According to the Times, multiple senior employees have threatened to resign and, in response to their objections, Zuckerberg moved his weekly meetings up to Tuesday from Thursday so that he can address his employees’ concerns.
Facebook spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois released a statement saying, “We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community. We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership.”