Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told staff at a companywide meeting that he won’t change his mind about a decision to leave up posts shared by US President Donald Trump last week that many workers felt violated the company’s policies against violent rhetoric.
At an all-hands meeting via video chat on Tuesday, Zuckerberg took questions from employees, many of whom have publicly voiced dismay that the Trump post, which seemed to threaten that looters would be shot, was still visible on Facebook’s service. Zuckerberg told workers that he and other members of the company’s policy team couldn’t justify saying that the message clearly incited violence, which means it didn’t break Facebook’s rules, according to two people who attended the meeting.
Zuckerberg added that Facebook is exploring whether the company should change the policy or come up with other ways to flag violating posts besides taking them down entirely, one person said. The meeting lasted 90 minutes, and employees asked Zuckerberg questions via a video split screen. Many of those who spoke were upset and frustrated with the company’s position.
Facebook is responding to the most intense internal protest in its history, involving public resignations and increasing outrage over Zuckerberg’s decisions. While the CEO stood his ground on the posts from last week, the company tried to assuage concerns by announcing two initiatives. Facebook will create a hub for election resources — similar to its offering for COVID-19 — where users can seek out vetted information, the meeting attendees said. And Fidji Simo, the head of Facebook’s flagship app, was tasked with sponsoring more proactive initiatives to advance racial justice, according to the employees, who asked not to be identified discussing an internal meeting.
On May 28, Trump posted a message on Facebook with the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis. It remains on the social network.
The same post was also shared to rival social network Twitter, which then added a warning and filter to the message. A number of Facebook employees, including some senior figures, have criticised the company’s approach, challenging Zuckerberg’s decision to leave the post up, and on Monday some workers participated in a virtual walkout in protest.
“Mark had an open discussion with employees today, as he has regularly over the years,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “He’s grateful for their feedback.”
One employee, software engineer Timothy Aveni, announced his resignation on Monday, citing Facebook’s failure to step in on content such as Trump’s.
“Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence. He showed us on Friday that this was a lie,” Aveni posted on Facebook. “Facebook, complicit in the propagation of weaponised hatred, is on the wrong side of history.”
As criticism mounted on Monday, Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg held a videoconference with US civil rights leaders to discuss issues around Facebook’s policies related to race, elections and other topics. Color of Change President Rashad Robinson said participants were left disappointed with Zuckerberg’s understanding of the issues.
Last week, Twitter also angered Trump when the company added a fact-checking label to a post about mail-in ballots. Trump responded by unveiling an executive order targeting the law that protects social-media companies from liability for the content posted by its users.
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