Facebook Inc. employees became increasingly bold in expressing their dismay at Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to take action on incendiary comments posted to the social network by U.S. President Donald Trump, tweeting out criticisms and staging a virtual walkout.
After the president tweeted a message with the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Twitter Inc. for the first time obscured one of his posts, marking it with a warning that it breached service rules by glorifying violence. Facebook’s response to the same content, in a post from Zuckerberg on Friday, was to say, “We think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”
Several senior figures at Facebook declared their strong disagreement online over the weekend, and some employees — working from home because of the pandemic — held a virtual walkout, deciding not to log in to work on Monday in protest.
“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” said Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed. “I apologize if you were waiting for me to have some sort of external opinion. I focused on organizing 50+ likeminded folks into something that looks like internal change.”
“Giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless who you are or if it’s newsworthy,” wrote Andrew Crow, head of design for Facebook’s Portal product line.
Joining them with individual messages against the passive policy were Design Manager Jason Stirman, Director of Product Management Jason Toff, and Product Designer Sara Zhang, who tweeted that “Internally we are voicing our concerns, so far to no avail.” One entire engineering team walked out, using a logo that displayed a fist with a heart and the hashtag #takeaction. Many tweets quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African human rights activist: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”