Facebook Workers Rebel Over Policy on Trump Posts

Some of them are staging a 'virtual walkout'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2020 3:34 PM CDT
Facebook Workers Hold 'Virtual Walkout' Over Trump
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks last year at the Paley Center in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In contrast to Twitter's new policy, Facebook has taken a hands-off approach to dealing with President Trump's posts—and it has caused a backlash that some employees say is the biggest challenge to Mark Zuckerberg's leadership in the company's history. With most Facebook employees working from home, some are staging a "virtual walkout" Monday, leaving out-of-office messages to explain that they are not working in a show of support for those protesting the death of George Floyd, the BBC reports. Trump's tweets are usually cross-posted to Facebook, where he has almost 30 million followers. More:
  • Internal rebellion. Facebook employees who want the company to take a harder line on Trump's posts—especially one that Twitter hid for "glorifying violence"—have also circulated petitions and voiced their frustrations on Twitter and other platforms, the New York Times reports. Two senior employees tell the Times they have informed the company that they will resign unless Zuckerberg's stance changes.

  • "Ashamed to work here." "Facebook's inaction in taking down Trump's post inciting violence makes me ashamed to work here," tweeted Facebook software engineer Lauren Tan. "I absolutely disagree with it. I enjoy the technical parts of my job and working alongside smart/kind people, but this isn't right. Silence is complicity."
  • Leaked posts. Facebook's policy on Trump's tweets caused heated debate on Workplace, the company's internal collaboration app, according to leaked posts seen by the Verge. "I am finding the contortions we have to go through incredibly hard to stomach," one employee wrote. "All this points to a very high risk of a violent escalation and civil unrest in November and if we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly."
  • Zuckerberg's response. "Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post 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." Sources tell CNN that he spoke to the president the same day. Zuckerberg said in another post Sunday that he will be donating $10 million to groups supporting racial justice.
  • "Honest feedback" welcomed. "We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership. As we face additional difficult decisions around content ahead, we’ll continue seeking their honest feedback."
  • Next moves. The Times reports that Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg plan to host a call Monday night with civil rights leaders who have criticized company policy, including Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, who called Zuckerberg's donation "one of the most insulting things I've ever seen." A weekly staff meeting has been moved up from Thursday to Tuesday to address the walkout.
(More Facebook stories.)

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