Facebook employees demand Zuckerberg take a stand against Trump

Employees critical of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision also praised rival firm Twitter for acting on Trump’s comments.

Protests Portland
Lyfe Tavarres, of Portland, negotiates with police during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Portland, Oregon, United States [File:Terray Sylvester/Reuters]

Facebook employees critical of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to act on President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about United States protests went public on Twitter, praising the rival social media firm for acting and rebuking their own employer.

Many tech workers at companies including Facebook, Google and Amazon have actively pursued issues of social justice in recent years, urging their employers to take action and change policies.

Even so, the weekend criticism marked a rare case of high-level employees publicly taking their chief executive to task, with at least three of the seven critical posts seen by Reuters news agency coming from people who identified themselves as senior managers.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” wrote Ryan Freitas, whose Twitter account identifies him as director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed. He added he had mobilised “50 likeminded folks” to lobby for internal change.

Jason Toff, identified as director of product management, wrote: “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.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the employee dissent.

Twitter on Friday affixed a warning label to a tweet from Trump in which he had included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said the tweet violated its rules against glorifying violence but was being left up as a public service exception.

Nationwide unrest erupted after the death of a Black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis last Monday. Video footage showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before he died.

Facebook declined to take action on the same message, with Zuckerberg saying in a Facebook post on Friday that while he found the remarks “deeply offensive”, they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence and people should know if the government was planning to deploy state force.

In the post, Zuckerberg, who last week took pains to distance his company from the fight between Twitter and Trump, also said Facebook had been in touch with the White House to explain its policies.

But some of the dissenting employees directly praised Twitter’s response.

“Respect to @Twitter’s integrity team for making the enforcement call,” wrote David Gillis, identified as a Facebook’s director of product design. In a long Twitter thread, he said he understood the logic of Facebook’s decision, but noted, “I think it would have been right for us to make a ‘spirit of the policy’ exception that took more context into account.”

Toff was one of several Facebook employees who were organising fundraisers for racial justice groups in Minnesota. Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Monday that the company would contribute an additional $10m to social justice causes.

“Giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless [of] who you are or if it’s newsworthy,” wrote another Facebook manager, Andrew Crow, head of design for the Portal product. “I disagree with Mark’s position and will work to make change happen.”

Source: Reuters