'Mark is wrong': Facebook staff disagree with Zuckerberg over Trump

'Mark is wrong': Facebook staff disagree with Zuckerberg over Trump

June 1, 2020

‘Mark is wrong’: Senior Facebook staff stage walkout after disagreeing publicly with Zuckerberg’s refusal to remove Donald Trump’s incendiary posts about George Floyd protests

  • Facebook refused to take down Trump’s post on Friday, which Twitter censored 
  • Trump posted ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ – a segregationist line
  • Twitter marked the post as glorifying violence and hid it behind a warning
  • Trump was enraged by Twitter’s decision and threatened them with regulation 
  • Facebook refused to do so and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was free speech 
  • Facebook employees disagree with Zuckerberg and spoke out against decision 
  • Dozens of employees staged a ‘virtual walkout’ Monday in protest at Zuckerberg 

Dozens of Facebook employees have staged a walkout and senior Facebook employees have publicly criticized their boss Mark Zuckerberg over his decision not to take down incendiary posts by Donald Trump.

The employees, who took the day off by logging into Facebook’s systems and requesting time off to support protesters across the country, also added an automated message to their emails saying that they were out of the office in a show of protest. 

Staff members have circulated petitions and threatened to resign, The New York Times reported. More than a dozen current and former employees have described the unrest as the most serious challenge to Zuckerberg’s leadership since the company was founded 15 years ago. 

Trump in the early hours of Friday took to Facebook and Twitter to speak out about the protests over the killing of George Floyd, writing ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ – a line that was used by segregationists in the 1960s. 

Twitter flagged the post as glorifying violence, and hid it behind a warning label.

Facebook, by contrast, did nothing. 

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and chairman of Facebook, has defended his decision not to take down a post on Friday made by Donald Trump, arguing he wanted to preserve freedom of speech

Twitter labeled Trump’s post as glorifying violence – a step which Zuckerberg said went too far

Axios reported that on Friday morning, Facebook raised concerns to the White House and urged them to make a change even if it did not violate Facebook’s policies.

The site claimed that later that day, Trump phoned Zuckerberg. 

During the call, Zuckerberg ‘expressed concerns about the tone and the rhetoric,’ according to a source familiar with the call.

Zuckerberg ‘didn’t make any specific requests,’ the source told Axios. 

A second source familiar with the call told the site that Zuckerberg told Trump that he personally disagreed with the president’s incendiary rhetoric and that by using language like this, Trump was putting Facebook in a difficult position.  

Zuckerberg later publicly explained Facebook’s decision to leave Trump’s post up, writing that although he personally had ‘a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,’ the company’s ‘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.’ 

Many of his employees disagreed, and, as first reported in The Hollywood Reporter, over the weekend voiced their anger. 

On Friday Zuckerberg provided a lengthy explanation as to his decision to keep the post live

Ryan Freitas, director of product design at Facebook tweeted: ‘Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind. 

‘I apologize if you were waiting for me to have some sort of external opinion. 

‘I focused on organizing 50+ likeminded folks into something that looks like internal change.’

Ryan Freitas, director of product design at Facebook, criticized his boss on Twitter

Jason Toff, who describes his job as ‘building something new at Facebook’, agreed with Freitas

Jason Toff, a director of product management at Facebook, said many shared his opinion. 

‘I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up,’ he tweeted.

‘The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.’

Jason Stirman, a design manager at Facebook, said Zuckerberg’s reasoning was wrong. 

‘I don’t know what to do, but I know doing nothing is not acceptable,’ he wrote. 

‘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.’  

David Gillis, a director of product design at Facebook, wrote: ‘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. 

‘While I understand why we chose to stay squarely within the four corners of our violence and incitement policy, I think it would have been right for us to make a ‘spirit of the policy’ exception that took more context into account.’

David Gillis agreed with his colleagues that Zuckerberg was wrong to allow Trump’s post

Andrew Crow, head of design at Facebook Portal, agreed. 

‘Censoring information that might help people see the complete picture *is* wrong,’ he wrote. 

‘But giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless who you are or if it’s newsworthy. I disagree with Mark’s position and will work to make change happen.’

Andrew Crow said he did not approve of his boss’s handling of Trump’s incendiary post

Diego Mendes, a product design manager at Facebook ARVR, said: ‘Inaction is not the answer. Facebook leadership is wrong. 

‘I have voiced my concerns internally and I will continue to do it. 

‘I believe in our mission. I believe in my teammates. I hope we will do and be better.’

Twitter’s decision to add a notice that the message violated its rules for ‘glorifying violence’ came shortly after it appended a fact-check label to another of his tweets about mail-in ballots. 

It was the first time Twitter had challenged his posts.

Trump said later that he was not aware of the history of the phrase, which dates back to U.S. police crackdowns on civil rights in the 1960s.

Democrats accused Trump of making the situation worse.

‘This is no time for incendiary tweets. It’s no time to encourage violence,’ said Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in remarks streamed online. 

‘This is a national crisis and we need real leadership right now. Leadership that will bring everyone to the table so that we can take measures to root out systemic racism.’

Trump relies heavily on Twitter to bring his message directly to his 80 million followers on the site, but also has repeatedly accused it and other social media sites of censoring conservatives.

Twitter’s decision to attach a warning to Trump’s tweet escalates a feud between Trump and tech companies. 

In response, Trump threatened new regulations and called on Congress to revoke a law that protects online platforms from lawsuits over content.

Zuckerberg said, in an interview with Fox News, that he disagreed with Twitter’s position. 

‘I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,’ he said. 

‘Private companies … especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.’ 

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