While Twitter started labeling some of the president’s inflammatory messages Virtual Walkout to Protest Trump Posts, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said his company should leave them alone.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Hundreds of Facebook employees, in rare public criticism on Monday of their own company, protested executives’ decision not to do anything about inflammatory posts that President Trump had placed on the giant social media platform over the past week.
Many of 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, according to a copy of the text viewed by The New York Times.
The employee added: “Along with Black employees in the company, and all persons with a moral conscience, I am calling for Mark to immediately take down the President’s post advocating violence, murder and imminent threat against Black people.” The Times agreed to withhold the employee’s name.
Mr. Zuckerberg has argued on a number of occasions that Facebook should take a hands-off approach to what people post, including lies from elected officials and others in power. He has repeatedly said the public should be allowed to decide what to believe.
That stand was tested last week when Twitter added fact-check and warning labels to two tweets from the president that broke Twitter’s rules around voter suppression and glorification of violence. But as Twitter acted on Mr. Trump’s tweets, Facebook left his posts on its platform alone. Mr. Zuckerberg said Mr. Trump’s posts did not violate the social network’s rules.
Mr. Zuckerberg spoke briefly with Mr. Trump in a telephone call on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter. The call, which was previously reported by Axios, was described as “productive,” though it was not clear what was said. Mr. Zuckerberg explained his position to employees in a live-streamed question and answer session later that day.
In a video of the session that was reviewed by The Times, hundreds of employees voiced opposition by posting comments alongside the session, and some questioned whether any black people had been involved in making the decision.
“The lack of backbone, and this weak leadership, will be judged by history. Hate speech should never be compared to free speech,” one employee wrote. “The president (sic) is literally threatening for the National Guard to shoot citizens. Maybe when we’re in the middle of a race war the policy will change.”
Mr. Zuckerberg said the posts were different from those that threaten violence because they were about the use of “state force,” which is currently allowed.
While there was some support for the chief executive during the livestream, the results of an internal poll taken during the session and posted by a staff member showed that more than 1,000 Facebook employees voted against Mr. Zuckerberg’s choice Virtual Walkout. Nineteen of the respondents said they agreed with the decision.
In response to the walkout on Monday, Mr. Zuckerberg has moved his weekly meeting with employees to Tuesday from Thursday. The meeting will be a chance for employees to question Mr. Zuckerberg directly.
A Facebook spokeswoman said Monday morning that executives welcomed feedback from employees. “We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” said Liz Bourgeois, the spokeswoman. “We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership.”
Mr. Zuckerberg’s post Virtual Walkout last week explaining his decision on Mr. Trump’s posts frustrated many inside the company. More than a dozen Facebook employees tweeted that they disagreed with Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision, including the head of design of Facebook’s portal product, Andrew Crow.
An engineer for the platform, Lauren Tan, posted about the situation on Friday. “Facebook’s inaction in taking down Trump’s post inciting violence makes me ashamed to work here,” Ms. Tan wrote in a tweet. “Silence is complicity.”
Two senior Facebook employees told The New York Times that they had informed their managers that they would resign if Mr. Zuckerberg did not reverse his decision. Another person, who was supposed to start work at the company next month, told Facebook they were no longer willing to accept a position at the company because of Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision.
Over the weekend, several petitions circulated among Facebook employees calling for the company to make personnel changes and for more diversity of voices among Mr. Zuckerberg’s top lieutenants.
In private online chats, employees have called for the resignation of Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global policy. Mr. Kaplan is seen as being a strong conservative voice within the company. In 2018, he upset some employees when he sat in the front row of the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was a close friend.
Originally Publish at: https://www.nytimes.com/