George Floyd death: Employees protest Facebook's Trump policy

Cheryl Sanders
June 2, 2020

In a rare example of public dissent, some Facebook employees are taking to Twitter to express strong disagreements with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's decision not to take any action on a series of controversial posts last week from President Donald Trump, including an apparent threat that "looting" would lead to "shooting".

Jason Stirman, who works on R&D at Facebook, said he "completely disagrees with Mark's decision to do nothing about Trump's recent posts", adding: "I'm not alone inside of FB".

Nate Butler, a Facebook product designer, added: "I need to be clear - FB is on the wrong side of this and I can't support their stance".

"Giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless who you are or if it's newsworthy", Crow said.

"I disagree strongly with how the President spoke about this, but I believe people should be able to see this for themselves, because ultimately accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinized out in the open", Zuckerberg said.

The New York Times first reported the virtual walkouts, writing that "dozens" of Facebook employees across the country took the day off by logging into their human resources systems and requesting a personal day. Twitter slapped a warning label on the tweet about mail-in voting, as well as a public interest notice on the tweet about the Minneapolis protests for violating its rules regrading glorifying violence. "Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric", Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on Friday. In a long Twitter thread he said he understood the logic of Facebook's decision, but: "I think it would have been right for us to make a "spirit of the policy" exception that took more context into account". "I will be participating in today's virtual walkout in solidarity with the black community", tweeted Sara Zhang, one of the Facebook employees in the action.

Jason Toff, who joined Facebook as a director of product management a year ago, pointed to a broader upsurge of employee activism inside the company. "As hard as it was to watch, I'm grateful that Darnella Frazier posted on Facebook her video of George Floyd's murder because we all needed to see that".

"We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership".

"I DO NOT agree w Mark's choice not to label posts that incite violence I am making my voice heard in internally". The President's order makes social media companies liable for user generated content on their platforms, if they choose to intervene with those posts.

In a statement, Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said: "We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community".

Employees at the social media giant have been less outspoken than their counterparts at other tech companies such as Google and Twitter. "As we face additional hard decisions around content ahead, we'll continue seeking their honest feedback", a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Facebook allowed the same post to stand unaltered on its site.

While only a small number of Facebook employees are now speaking out compared to Facebook's overall workforce of about 48,000, it nonetheless highlights Facebook's hard tightrope walk.

"Zuckerberg also announced Monday that Facebook will donate "$10 million to groups working on racial justice".

The protest inside the world's largest social media platform forced Zuckerberg to post two messages within three days - one to explain his decision and another that offered a $10-million donation to groups working on racial justice.

Other reports by iNewsToday