Employees at Facebook—many of whom are continuing to work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic—organized a virtual walkout on Monday to pressure the social media giant to apply a tougher standard to President Donald Trump's posts, particularly those about recent and ongoing nationwide demonstrations provoked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Facebook walkout, which involved employees taking the day off in support of the protests over police brutality and Floyd's death, came after the company decided on Friday not to take action on a post in which Trump threatened to send the National Guard to Minneapolis to fire on demonstrators, which the ACLU said amounted to a call to "literally murder protesters."
Facebook employees organized this virtual walkout over the weekend. Employee taking part have taken the day off, and are posting in FB's internal systems that they stand in solidarity with the protest.
— Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) June 1, 2020
Facebook's inaction on the post contrasted with the approach of Twitter, which hid the comment behind a notice that read: "This tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the tweet to remain accessible."
The notice came after Twitter added fact-check labels to two earlier tweets from Trump, which prompted the president to retaliate on Thursday with an executive order that critics decried as an unconstitutional "ploy for [Trump] to dominate and eviscerate public oversight of his lies."
According to the New York Times, which reported on the Facebook walkout Monday:
Inside the company, staff members have circulated petitions and threatened to resign, and a number of employees wrote publicly about their unhappiness on Twitter and elsewhere. More than a dozen current and former employees have described the unrest as the most serious challenge to the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, since the company was founded 15 years ago.
"The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the U.S. president does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression," one Facebook employee wrote in an internal message board, according to a copy of the text viewed by the New York Times.
The employee added: "Along with black employees in the company, and all persons with a moral conscience, I am calling for Mark to immediately take down the president's post advocating violence, murder, and imminent threat against black people."
The Guardian compiled a collection of tweets from Facebook employees before and during the Monday walkout that pushed back against Zuckerberg's lengthy justification for not taking any action on Trump's posts.
"I don't know what to do, but I know doing nothing is not acceptable," Jason Stirman, a member of Facebook's R&D team, tweeted Saturday night. "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."
Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook's News Feed, declared Sunday that "Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind."
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Andrew Crow, head of design for Facebook Portal, wrote Monday:
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. I disagree with Mark’s position and will work to make change happen.
— Andrew (@AndrewCrow) June 1, 2020
The React Core team is joining the Facebook employee walkout in solidarity with the Black community.
— Andrew Clark (@acdlite) June 1, 2020
The walkout was welcomed on social media by journalists and political commentators:
I would strongly encourage anyone working at Facebook to join this walkout -- it's your big chance to stop your company from contributing to America's self-destruction. https://t.co/jvJZi7xxsM
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) June 1, 2020
“...the most serious challenge to Mr. Zuckerberg’s leadership since the company was founded 15 years ago.”
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) June 1, 2020
According to the Times, Zuckerberg moved up his Thursday meeting with employees to Tuesday to enable Facebook workers to question the executive about his decisions regarding Trump's recent posts.
Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told the newspaper Monday that the company "recognize[s] the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our black community" and "encourage[s] employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership."
This is not the first time during the Trump administration that Facebook employees have challenged Zuckerberg's decisions related to Trump. In October 2019, hundreds of employees signed on to an open letter opposing the platform's policy of exempting political advertising from its "misinformation" standards under the guise of promoting free speech.