Facebook employees took a public stand against the company’s decision to leave President Trump’s recent inflammatory posts about the Minneapolis protests on the service.
On Monday, many Facebook employees, most of whom are working remotely during the pandemic, staged a virtual walkout in which they paused their work and set up auto responses to any emails they received. This came after a number of employees had posted critical messages on Twitter over the weekend about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s handling of Trump’s posts.
On Thursday Trump said on Facebook, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” referring to protests over the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck. Trump also said that he would send in the National Guard to “get the job done right.”
Many people complained that the President’s posts encouraged violence and that Facebook should remove them.
Zuckerberg on Friday said that he had decided against removing Trump’s post because he’d considered it a “warning about state action.” Unless a post causes “imminent risk of specific harms or dangers,” he said, Facebook sides with free expression.
The decision highlighted a big divide between how Facebook and Twitter moderate posts by politicians on their services. In contrast to Facebook, Twitter had obscured Trump’s comments behind a warning label explaining that the tweet had violated its rules against “glorifying violence.”
Angered by Zuckerberg’s decision, some Facebook employees spoke out in a rare show of public dissent by staff. The walkout, joined by an unknown number of employees, followed.
In a statement, Facebook said of the walkout: “We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community. We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership. As we face additional difficult decisions around content ahead, we’ll continue seeking their honest feedback.”
The following are some of the comments employees posted on Twitter about Facebook’s response to Trump’s posts.
Sara Zhang, a Facebook product designer, said last week on Twitter: “Internally we are voicing our concerns, so far to no avail. I will personally continue to bring it up until something has changed.” On Monday, she followed up by posting these additional tweets:
David Gillis is a director of product design at Facebook:
Jake Blakeley is an augmented reality product designer for Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality unit. He backed Gillis with the following comment:
Similarly, a Twitter user named Josiah, a Facebook product designer, according to the user’s account, also backed Gillis:
Andrew Crow is the head of design for Facebook’s videoconferencing device, Portal:
Jason Toff is director of product management at Facebook:
Jason Stirman is a Facebook design manager:
Nate Butler is a Facebook product designer:
Ryan Freitas is a director of product design at Facebook:
Lauren Tan is a software engineer at Facebook:
Brandon Dail, a user interface engineer at Facebook, expressed his dissent and then called on other employees to do the same:
Dail also responded to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of AR/VR, who tweeted his support for the black community on Sunday. Here’s that exchange:
Trevor Phillippi is a product designer for Messenger:
Nick Inzucchi, product designer, criticized Zuckerberg after another had weighed in: