As demonstrated by their virtual walkout earlier this week, the people working at Facebook aren’t too happy about the company’s refusal to remove incendiary and misleading posts made by U.S. President Donald Trump. Now, thanks to a slew of internal documents obtained by the Washington Post, we have a clearer picture of just how fed up Facebook’s employees are with management’s penchant for giving politicians a free pass on its platforms.
On Tuesday, Facebook held an emergency town hall meeting after receiving severe pushback for its decision to leave up a May 28th post from the U.S. president in which he glorifies violence and threatens protestors by saying “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Before the town hall, workers were polled on the most pressing questions they wanted CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer, according to the Washington Post’s report. The question that secured the most votes was: “Can we please change our policies around political free speech? Fact checking and removal of hate speech shouldn’t be exempt for politicians.”
Employees flagged similar concerns on Facebook’s internal message board, according to more than 200 posts reviewed by the Washington Post. Facebook’s apparent unwillingness to hold Trump accountable to the same standards as its other users left many employees questioning whether the company was in some sort of “an abusive relationship” with the president.
“What’s the point of establishing a principle if we’re going to move the goal posts every time Trump escalates his behavior?” software engineer Timothy Aveni asked in a weekend post on Facebook’s internal message board. He quit this week, attributing his decision to Zuckerberg’s inaction.
“My toddler basically does the same thing to test boundaries,” wrote another employee.
“I’m really bothered by the Q+A today,” one Black employee added after Tuesday’s town hall. “We hear where the leaders of this country and our Execs stand and know that the Policy Matters more than Black Lives.”
Other internal documents obtained by the Washington Post showed that Zuckerberg and Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg met with several Black executives last Saturday to discuss objections and concerns regarding the company’s decision to keep the post up. As a result of these talks, the group agreed to weigh in more frequently on Facebook’s content policy decisions and to meet more often with Zuckerberg and Sandberg moving forward.
During Tuesday’s town hall, Zuckerberg defended his previous decision but added that he’s open to reviewing Facebook’s policies on violence committed by officials. He also said he’s considering incorporating some sort of content labelling option – such as the one Twitter has slapped on Trump’s tweets – to carve out a middle ground for controversial posts like this.
Alternatively, Zuckerberg could just do right by his statements to Congress last year, wherein he specifically outlined in testimony to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that, “If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause, that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm, we will take that content down.”
Featured photo: Josh Edelson (Getty Images)