Mark Zuckerberg tries to explain his inaction on Trump posts to outraged staff
At a company-wide town hall, Zuckerberg struggled to explain his decision-making process because many of his employees, using a real-time feedback tool, reminded him of promises to remove content that calls for violence or that could cause imminent physical damage. .
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement to CNN Business that open and honest discussion “has always been part of Facebook culture.”
“Mark had an open discussion with his employees today, as he has done regularly over the years,” said Stone. “He is grateful for their comments.”
The meeting threatened to escalate tensions on Facebook, which was struck by allegations of right-wing bias from the Conservatives and criticized by others for tacitly tolerating the spread of hatred and racism.
Another Facebook employee told CNN Business that he found Zuckerberg’s answers to questions from city hall staff missing, and said the CEO risked alienating more of his staff rather than responding to their concerns.
During the event, Facebook staff shared links to a video of an exchange between the Democratic Republic of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Zuckerberg last October when he said: “If anyone, including a politician says things that can cause it to call for violence or to risk imminent physical damage … we will delete this content. “
At one point, around 22,000 people had connected to the live video stream, according to another Facebook employee who was watching the stream. The figure reflects almost half of the company’s 48,000 employees.
The main question for Zuckerberg, who called for changes in the company’s position on political speech, received more than 5,400 votes from workers, the employee said.
However, not all employees disagree with Zuckerberg’s position. One of them told CNN Business: “Supporting freedom of expression – especially when you vehemently disagree with what the person is saying – is a difficult but important position to ensure that everyone can have a voice. “
The employee said it was unclear which part of Facebook staff supported Zuckerberg’s decision. At least a few people they spoke with support her, but are nervous to say it more publicly because they have seen the setback within the company, said the employee.
Tuesday’s event follows days of employee activism over Facebook’s handling of Trump content.
Some staff members held a virtual walkout on Monday to protest decisions by company executives regarding Trump positions. And at least one worker, software engineer Timothy Aveni, quit his job, saying it was no longer possible to “continue to excuse Facebook’s behavior”.
Facebook’s workforce is known to keep its disputes with executives largely confidential. But that changed on Friday, when Zuckerberg announced that he would not act against the Trump content that Twitter had earlier reported violating its own rules. The decision drew widespread criticism from Facebook and spread to the public, with many employees voicing their disagreement on Twitter.
One of Trump’s messages stated, with reference to the demonstrations in Minneapolis, that “when the looting begins, filming begins” – a phrase of racist origin. Trump then said he didn’t know the story behind the sentence, but let the original comment stand on Facebook and Twitter.
Zuckerberg said the content caused him a “negative visceral reaction”. But he justified his decision not to act against the posts, citing his responsibility as “head of an institution committed to freedom of expression”.
In the eyes of his harshest internal critics, Zuckerberg had simply bowed to earlier policy commitments.
“Mark can patch this section of Facebook’s policies, but if he draws his principle from the specific actions he wants to take, instead of taking action based on the principle, it will be useless in the long run,” Aveni said. response to a question from a CNN reporter on his post.