Facebook employees staged a “virtual walkout” Monday in protest of the social media company’s failure to address President Donald Trump’s use of its platform to spread incendiary content.
It’s unclear how many of the company’s 48,000 global employees are participating in the walkout by taking the day off. Many of Facebook’s employees were already working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of the virtual protesters said they planned to use their time to attend the physical demonstrations against police brutality around the country.
In a statement to HuffPost, the company acknowledged that some of its employees were indeed engaged in the protest and encouraged them to voice their dissent.
“We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “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.”
As protests rocked the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Trump published a series of inflammatory messages on his social media pages, including one stating that “looting” would lead to “shooting.” The phrase was a clear reference to the words of Walter Headley Jr., a Miami police chief who greeted the civil rights protests of the 1960s with violence.
Twitter affixed a warning label to the posts, noting that they violated the platform’s rules against “glorifying violence.” The company didn’t take the tweets down, however, finding that it was “in the public’s interest” for the president’s posts to remain accessible.
In contrast, Facebook took no action at all. CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his decision as a matter of permitting free speech.
“I know many people are upset that we’ve left the President’s posts up,” he wrote, “but our 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.”
Numerous Facebook employees spoke out online against the inaction.
“I don’t know what to do, but I know doing nothing is not acceptable,” wrote Jason Stirman, a Facebook product designer, on Twitter. “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.”
Software engineer Lauren Tan added: “Facebook’s inaction in taking down Trump’s post inciting violence makes me ashamed to work here. I absolutely disagree with it. I enjoy the technical parts of my job and working alongside smart/kind people, but this isn’t right. Silence is complicity.”
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