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Facebook employees walk out saying Trump’s posts must be stopped

Last week, Facebook employees stepped away from their work-from-home desks and took to Twitter to accuse Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg of insufficiently monitoring US President Donald Trump’s posts as strictly as the competing site does.

Reuters saw dozens of online posts from staff critical of Zuckerberg’s choice to leave Trump’s most inflammatory wordage unchallenged where Twitter had labelled it.

Some top managers took part in the protest, reminiscent of a 2018 walkout over sexual harassment at Alphabet Inc’s Google.

It has become an unusual case of workers putting their CEO to task online, with one employee tweet that thousands participated on. Among them were all seven engineers on the React code library maintenance team that supports apps from Facebook.

“The recent decision by Facebook not to act on posts inciting violence ignores other options for keeping our community safe. We strongly urge Facebook leadership to #TakeAction,” they said in a joint statement published on Twitter.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavour in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” wrote Ryan Freitas, identified on Twitter as the Facebook News Feed product design director. He added he had assembled “50+ like-minded folks” to campaign for internal change.

A Facebook employee said the Zuckerberg weekly Friday question-and-answer session would move up to Tuesday this week.

Katie Zhu, a product manager at Instagram, tweeted a screenshot revealing she had entered “#BLACKLIVESMATTER” to describe her demand for time off as part of the walkout.

Facebook Inc will allow the protesting employees to take time off without scaling back their vacation days, spokesman Andy Stone said.

Separately, online therapy business Talkspace announced it ended partnership discussions with Facebook. CEO Oren Frank of Talkspace tweeted he would “not support a platform that encourages violence, racism, and lies”.

In recent years, technology workers at companies including Facebook, Google and Inc have been pursuing social justice issues, urging companies to change policies.

Employees “recognize the distress many of our people, particularly our Black community, are experiencing right now,” Stone wrote in a text.

“We encourage employees to talk freely as they disagree with leadership. We will continue to receive their honest opinions when we make more tough choices on the content ahead.”

Last week, nationwide unrest erupted following the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis last Monday. Video footage shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes until he died.

Twitter Inc. placed a warning label on a Trump tweet on Friday that contained the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said it violated rules against the glorification of violence but was left as an exception for the public interest.

Facebook refused to act on the same post, and Zuckerberg tried 
to distance his company from the fight between Twitter and the president.

Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Friday that while he considered Trump’s comments “deeply offensive,” they did not violate corporate policies against incitements to violence and people would know whether the government was preparing to use force.

Zuckerberg’s post also confirmed that Facebook had been in contact with the White House to explain its policies.

Jason Toff, a director of product management and former head of short-form video platform Vine, was one of several Facebook staff coordinating fundraisers for racial justice groups in Minnesota. On Monday, Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook that the company would contribute an additional US$10 million to further social justice causes.

“I work at Facebook, and I am not proud of how we’re showing up. The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.” said Toff in a tweet.

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