Facebook employees organise virtual walkout to protest against inaction related to Trump’s posts

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on June 02, 2020 Published on June 02, 2020

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Hundreds of Facebook employees on Monday protested against the social media giant’s inaction against inflammatory posts by the United States President Donald Trump staging a virtual walkout.

In public criticism of the company and its decision to not remove inflammatory posts by Trump, employees refused to work and added an automated message to their digital profiles and email responses as many are working from home in light of Covid-19. These automated messages said that they were away from work in protest, The New York Times reported.

The employees have also circulated petitions within the company and some have threatened to resign. Multiple employees have expressed their dissatisfaction with Facebook’s actions on other platforms such as Twitter.

The post was in reference to protests in Minneapolis against the death of a black man, George Floyd who died in police custody after a policeman knelt on his neck. Some people amid the protests began looting shops and rioting.

Trump on May 29 posted the following post on Facebook: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right. These THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Twitter had earlier hidden Trump’s tweet which had a similar tone and ended with the comment, “when the looting starts…” Facebook, however, decided to not remove the post in question despite multiple employees urging the company to take action.

“Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had written in a Facebook post explaining this decision.

“But I'm responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression. I know many people are upset that we've left the President's posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” he added.

This further caused dissatisfaction and anger amid employees leading to the virtual walkout on Monday.

“The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the US President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,” a Facebook employee wrote in an internal message board as quoted by The New York Times.

“I have to say I am finding the contortions we have to go through incredibly hard to stomach. All this points to a very high risk of a violent escalation and civil unrest in November and if we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly,” wrote another as quoted by the Verge.

Published on June 02, 2020
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