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Fear and loathing on Facebook. How Trump’s post rioted among social network employees

Fear and loathing on Facebook. How Trump's post rioted among social network employees

The riot on Facebook began after one of the scandalous messages of US President Donald Trump, who quoted on Twitter and Facebook the words of the head of the Miami police, uttered in the midst of racial unrest in 1967: “When looting begins, the shooting begins”

Twitter hid this message from Trump as violating the rules related to the “heroization of violence”, and Snapchat removed Trump’s posts from the promoted column Discover. But Facebook left the presidency unchanged. The founder of the social network, Mark Zuckerberg, personally intervened in the situation, arguing that the company’s policy allows the publication of warnings about the use of force by state entities.

Facebook riot
This decision of Zuckerberg caused internal criticism in the company, when Facebook employees began to insist that Trump’s post should be removed for violating the rules of the platform. The founder of the social network was accused of flirting with the Republicans because of fear that the confrontation with Trump could adversely affect the company.

On Monday, June 1, Facebook employees disagreeing with Zuckerberg’s stance launched a “virtual strike,” refusing to go to work. 33 former Facebook employees who worked at the company at an early stage and participated in the creation of Community Standards wrote an open letter criticizing the current leadership of the social network.

“They decided that elected officials were allowed to meet lower standards than the people they serve. One set of rules for you, the other for politicians. From the local mayor to the president of the United States,” the letter said.

In addition to the former employees of the company, the current ones expressed public dissatisfaction. Including several top managers. At the same time, software engineer Timothy J. Aveni, who worked with disinformation issues, announced his departure from the company.

“Mark told us that he would draw a line in statements that call for violence. But on Friday it turned out to be a lie. Facebook is an accomplice in the spread of hate speech and is on the wrong side of the story,” Aveni wrote.

At the same time, street protesters came to the Zuckerberg house in the city of Palo Alto, California on the evening of June 1, and also visited the headquarters of the social network in the nearby Menlo Park.

Already on June 2, Mark Zuckerberg held a video conference with Facebook employees about Trump’s messages, trying to justify his position. During the conversation, Zuckerberg stated that he had conducted a “fairly thorough” assessment of the situation and called the decision not to hide the post difficult, but correct.

“I knew that I needed to separate my personal opinion from what is our policy and the principles of the platform on which we work. I also realized that our decision would lead to many people being upset, including inside the company and we will be criticized by the media, “Zuckerberg said during the conference.

Zuckerberg said the company’s policy, which did not allow him to remove Trump’s shooting post, had previously defended other important content that upset people, such as the footage of George Floyd’s death.

“This is an aspect that gives people a voice and I am very proud of it,” added the head of Facebook.

He also said that Trump called him on Friday after a decision was made not to delete the post.

“I used this opportunity to tell him that I feel that his post was inflammatory and harmful, and made him understand what we insist on,” Zuckerberg said, noting that Trump’s publication does not violate the guidelines of the social network .

However, some of the employees who participated in the videoconference were skeptical.

“Why are the smartest people in the world focused on distorting our rules to avoid conflict with Trump, instead of stimulating progress in solving social problems?” – asked one of the Facebook employees, in response to which Zuckerberg promised to reconsider the policy of hiding posts, if in the US there will be a “long period of civil unrest.”

“We have examples of how this might look,” Zuckerberg said, referring to how Facebook works in countries with “ongoing violent conflict.”

Zuckerberg concluded his appeal to employees with the fact that the “direct impact” of the company on the world is very positive, since Facebook gave a voice to many people who could not be heard.

“The defense of this opportunity is often controversial,” Zuckerberg concluded.

Beat on the image

Facebook employees continued to criticize management decisions on their personal pages on social networks, Twitter and LinkedIn, and calls began to appear in the media to delete their accounts.

“I left Facebook in December 2019 and I do not regret it. I feel better without it. And you will be better too,” writes Business Insider editor Dave Smith in the column entitled “There has never been a better moment to stop using Facebook.” A journalist with a long track record, including Forbes, the Huffington Post and USA TODAY, is not an icebreaker, but only helps formulate the position to a large number of indignant Facebook users from the USA and other countries of the world and offers them better alternatives. Starting with Twitter and ending with Reddit and TikTok.

Leaders of civil rights movements also joined dissatisfied social network workers and critical journalists. The heads of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, the US National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of the United States, and Color of Change, a civil rights organization, met in person with Zuckerberg. But they could not come to a consensus.

“We are disappointed and overwhelmed by the incomprehensible explanations of Mark about why Trump’s posts remain in place. He refuses to admit that Facebook helps Trump call for violence against protesters. Mark sets a very dangerous precedent for other voices that will voice such malicious things on Facebook.” , – said in a statement by a group of civil rights advocates.

Support for Twitter was expressed on the other side of the North Atlantic. European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said politicians should “respond to criticism with facts, not threats and attacks.”

“I support Twitter in their efforts to develop and implement a transparent, clear and consistent moderation policy. This is not about censorship. It is about marking false or misleading information that could be harmful to the public,” said Jourova.

Promising future

Trying to prepare in advance for such crises, Facebook about a month ago began creating an independent oversight board, which will be attended by 650 experts from 88 countries. And which should become something of a “supreme court” of the social network, making final moderation decisions and giving recommendations on the company’s policy.

Members of the Oversight Council have already held a meeting on the Trump post scandal, but have refused to make decisions, citing the council becoming fully functional only by the fall of 2020, having missed most of the presidential campaign in the United States.

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