Facebook fires employee who protested against Trump post inaction

Software engineer dismissed for publicly scolding a colleague for their silence on the Black Lives Matter movement.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy people figures in front of a keyboard in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy people figures in front of a keyboard [File: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]

Facebook Inc has fired an employee who had criticised Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to take action against inflammatory posts by US President Donald Trump earlier this month, citing the software engineer’s tweet challenging a colleague’s silence on the issue. 

Brandon Dail, a user interface engineer in Seattle, said in a tweet on Friday that he was dismissed for publicly scolding a colleague who had refused to include a statement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement on developer documents he was publishing.

“I don’t doubt that violates Facebook’s respectful workplace policy,” Dail wrote on Friday.

“I’m not claiming I was unjustly terminated. I was fed up with Facebook, the harm it’s doing, and the silence of those complicit (including myself).”

Dail sent the offensive tweet a day after joining dozens of employees, including the six other engineers on his team, in abandoning their desks and tweeting objections to Zuckerberg’s handling of Trump’s posts targeting demonstrators protesting against systemic racial injustice in the country. 

“Intentionally not making a statement is already political,” Dail wrote in the June 3 tweet, mentioning his colleague by name. He said on Friday that he stood by what he wrote.

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Trump’s posts which prompted the staff outcry included the racially charged phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in reference to demonstrations against racism and police brutality held after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Twitter affixed a warning label to the same post, saying it glorified violence. Facebook opted to leave the post untouched.

Zuckerberg defended his decision at a tense all-hands meeting with employees that week. During the meeting, Dail tweeted that it was “crystal clear today that leadership refuses to stand with us”.

Facebook confirmed to Reuters news agency Dail’s characterisation of his dismissal but declined to provide additional information. The company said during the walkout that participating employees would not face retaliation.

Dail did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Dail again voiced objections this week after both Facebook and Twitter declined to take action against a Trump post that contained an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester who was critically injured by police in Buffalo, New York.

“Trump’s attack on Martin Gugino is despicable and a clear violation of Facebook’s anti-harassment rules. It’s again extremely disappointing that we (and Twitter) haven’t removed it,” he said.

Internal dissent is often encouraged at Silicon Valley tech giants, but the companies have been accused of penalising workers who organise and air complaints publicly.

Alphabet’s Google fired at least five workplace activists late last year, while Amazon dismissed critics of its warehouse conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both companies denied firing employees for speaking out.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies