Internal Strife Rages At Facebook Over Zuckerberg's Response to Trump
Division at Facebook over upper management's response to posts by President Donald Trump is spilling out into the public sphere.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on Friday that the platform would take no action against a post of Trump's about the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis, in which the president said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Twitter placed a warning tag on the same post, placing it behind a block for violating its policies on "glorifying violence." The post wasn't deleted, but Twitter users had to click through the warning to view the post.
Facebook also has rules banning the incitement of violence, but Zuckerberg said it found the post wasn't in breach.
"I know many people are upset that we've left the President's posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies," Zuckerberg wrote.
"We decided to leave it up because the National Guard references meant we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force," he added.
This decision appears to have dumbfounded many at Facebook, some of whom used its rival platform of Twitter to express their dismay.
"I'm a FB employee that completely disagrees with Mark's decision to do nothing about Trump's recent posts, which clearly incite violence. I'm not alone inside of FB. There isn't a neutral position on racism," an R&D product employee tweeted.
I don't know what to do, but I know doing nothing is not acceptable. I'm a FB employee that completely disagrees with Mark's decision to do nothing about Trump's recent posts, which clearly incite violence. I'm not alone inside of FB. There isn't a neutral position on racism.— Stirman (@stirman) May 30, 2020
"Mark Zuckerberg doesn't understand state violence," tweeted a designer.
Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t understand state violence. https://t.co/UfaVSlrvtO— Nick Inzucchi (@ninzucchi) May 30, 2020
"I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we're showing up. The majority of coworkers I've spoken to feel the same way," one engineer tweeted.
I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up. The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.— Jason Toff (@jasontoff) June 1, 2020
"Inaction is choosing the status-quo. I know many of my coworkers feel the same," wrote another.
I work at Facebook (Instagram) and I disagree with the decisions Mark and the FB leadership team have made about Trump's recent posts. Inaction is choosing the status-quo. I know many of my coworkers feel the same. We will make our voices heard and try to enlist change.— Sam Saliba (@srsaliba) June 1, 2020
"Trump's glorification of violence on Facebook is disgusting and it should absolutely be flagged or removed from our platforms. I categorically disagree with any policy that does otherwise," tweeted an engineer.
Disappointed that, again, I need to call this out: Trump's glorification of violence on Facebook is disgusting and it should absolutely be flagged or removed from our platforms. I categorically disagree with any policy that does otherwise.— Brandon Dail (@aweary) May 29, 2020
"FB's position is wrong and an insult to black people," a product designer at Facebook Messenger tweeted.
FB’s position is wrong and an insult to black people.— Trevor Phillippi (@trevorphillippi) May 31, 2020
Senior employees have also added their voices to the dissent. "Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind," tweeted the company's Director of Product Design for News Feed Ryan Freitas.
Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind.— Ryan Freitas (@ryanchris) June 1, 2020
One employee argued that the company should have made an exception to its policy to take action against the post.
I believe Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet (cross-posted to FB), encourages extra-judicial violence and stokes racism. Respect to @Twitter’s integrity team for making the enforcement call.— David Gillis (@davegillis) May 31, 2020
Other Facebookers chimed in underneath this tweet to agree the company should think more carefully about the spirit of its policies.
"If we're only willing to enforce our standards based on (presumed) intended meaning, and never on apparent meaning, we're always giving bad actors room to play the "I didn't mean it that way" card. A very slippery slope," tweeted one.
I agree with Dave and I’m gravely concerned that if we’re only willing to enforce our standards based on (presumed) intended meaning, and never on apparent meaning, we’re always giving bad actors room to play the “I didn’t mean it that way” card. A very slippery slope. https://t.co/5qAyGIr0FV— Josiah (@jgulden) June 1, 2020
"David said it much better than I could and reflects how many @Facebook employees feel right now," tweeted another.
Not all the employee public messaging is anti-Zuckerberg, with some employees weighing in to defend the CEO's decision.
Senior executive Andrew Bosworth (often just referred to as "Boz") tweeted his own opinion in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but stopped short of commenting on the company's actions. Bosworth famously posted an internal memo in 2016 which justified any growth on Facebook, even if it leads to people being harmed or killed.
The Verge also reports employees have used the company's internal message platform to try to pressure management over its decision to leave the post up.
"Makes me sad and frankly ashamed [...] Hopefully this wasn't the final assessment? Hopefully there is still someone somewhere discussing how and why this is clearly advocating for violence?" one message read.
"It's honestly really hard for me to take seriously the words of support from our leadership this morning if we allow content like this on our platform [...] Whatever we are getting from not acting on this, is it worth allowing clear, violent threats against Black protesters?" read another.
According to the report, one employee posted a GIF from the sketch comedy show "That Mitchell and Webb Look" in which an SS guard asks nervously: "Are we the baddies?"
"Waking up every morning at FB now and having this run through my head, immediately followed by 'yes, apparently,'" the employee wrote alongside the GIF.