Facebook employees blast Zuckerberg’s hands-off response to Trump posts

6 min read
Facebook employees blast Zuckerberg’s hands-off response to Trump posts

Trump wrote, “when the looting starts, shooting starts” after protests erupted last week in Minneapolis after George Floyd, a black man, was killed in police custody. Massive and often violent demonstrations have followed, spreading to cities across the country. On Friday, Zuckerberg defended the decision to take no action against the post, writing that “people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” wrote director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed Ryan Freitas.

Amid the blowback, Zuckerberg announced late Sunday that Facebook would donate $10 million to racial justice organizations. He did not reference Trump’s posts or the administration’s long-standing ire with social media platforms. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order that could allow the U.S. government to take oversight of political speech online.

“It’s clear Facebook also has more work to do to keep people safe and ensure our systems don’t amplify bias,” he wrote.

“I know that $10 million can’t fix this. It needs sustained, long term effort,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This week has made it clear how much more there is to do.”

“I don’t know what to do, but I know doing nothing is not acceptable,” said design manager Jason Stirman. “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.”

“Censoring information that might help people see the complete picture *is* wrong. But giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless who you are or if it’s newsworthy,” wrote Andrew Crow of Facebook’s Portal product line.

Protests raged across the country over the weekend, leaving behind smashed windows, looted stores and torched police vehicles — on top of deep pain gripping a nation in the midst of a pandemic and recession. Peaceful gatherings that began in dozens of cities ended with more than 4,000 people arrested, millions more under curfew and over than half of the nation’s governors calling in the National Guard.

Other tech giants weighed in on the crisis. In a memo to Apple employees Sunday, CEO Tim Cook wrote about America’s long history of racism and the deeply-rooted discrimination evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, health disparities within communities of color and inequalities in neighborhood services and education.

Cook said that Apple was donating to the Equal Justice Initiative, along with other groups, and that for the month of June, the tech giant would match two-for-one all employee donations. Apple closed some of its U.S. stores in the wake of the protests, even as the company tries to reopen its storefronts shuttered by the pandemic and economic downturn.

Intel CEO Bob Swan said the company pledged $1 million to address social injustice and anti-racism through nonprofits and community organizations. Swan also encouraged employees to donate to groups focused on equity and social justice, including those eligible for Intel’s donation matching program, like the Black Lives Matter Foundation, Center for Policing Equity and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

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