Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees on Tuesday he stood by his decision not to challenge inflammatory posts by United States President Donald Trump, refusing to give ground a day after staff members staged a rare public protest.
A group of Facebook employees – nearly all of them working at home due to the coronavirus pandemic – walked off the job on Monday. They complained the company should have acted against Trump’s posts about protests containing the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
Zuckerberg told employees Facebook had conducted a thorough review and was right to leave the posts unchallenged, a company spokeswoman said. She said Zuckerberg also acknowledged the decision had upset many people working at the company.
On Friday, Twitter Inc affixed a warning label to a Trump tweet about widespread protests over the death of a Black man in Minnesota that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
Twitter said the post violated its rules against glorifying violence but was left up as public interest exception, with reduced options for interactions and distribution.
Facebook declined to act on the same message, and Zuckerberg sought to distance his company from the fight between the president and Twitter. He maintained that while he found Trump’s remarks “deeply offensive”, they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence.
One employee, who had tweeted his dissent on Monday, posted on Twitter his disappointment with Facebook executives.
“It’s crystal clear today that leadership refuses to stand with us,” Brandon Dail wrote on Twitter. Dail’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a user interface engineer at Facebook in Seattle.
Timothy Aveni, a junior software engineer on Facebook’s team dedicated to fighting misinformation, announced on Monday that he was resigning his position.
“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. Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Civil rights leaders who attended an hour-long video call on Monday night with Zuckerberg and top Facebook executives called the CEO’s explanations for allowing Trump’s posts to stay up “incomprehensible”.
“He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters,” said a joint statement from leaders of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Color of Change.