Dozens of Facebook employees staged a "virtual walkout" on Monday in protest against their company's handling of misinformation. According to a report by The New York Times, the employees circulated internal messages saying that they were taking the day off work to show support for protesters around the country, and out of opposition to Facebook executives' response to President Donald Trump's recent rhetoric about social media in general, as well as the company policy on posts from elected officials.
The protesting employees took Monday off legitimately, logging into the company's system and requesting time off. However, they included an automated message with their emails explaining that they were out of the office on Monday to protest. Almost all Facebook employees are currently working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet they hope their absence from the job will send a message. This virtual demonstration joins growing rumbles of dissent among Facebook employees, who have reportedly been working on a list of demands for the company's management.
Many current and former employees of Facebook told the Times that the various internal protests going on right now are "the most serious challenge to Mr. Zuckerberg's leadership since the company was founded 15 years ago." That includes this walkout, as well as various petitions circulating, and threats to resign if changes are not made.
Zuckerberg moved his weekly meeting with employees from Thursday to Tuesday in acknowledgment of the walkout. Meanwhile, spokesperson Liz Bourgeois responded on behalf of the company, saying: "We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community. We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership."
It all follows Zuckerberg's public statements about fact-checking after the president raged against Twitter for contradicting his tweet about mail-in ballots. Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that social media companies should have a "hands-off approach" to the content that people post, including public officials and people with big platforms.
Zuckerberg's words became action last week when the president made identical posts on both Twitter and Facebook about the protests and civil unrest springing up around the country over the death of George Floyd. While Twitter added fact-checking links and warning labels to the president's tweets — which violated the site's rules about "glorification of violence" — Facebook left them untouched.
Zuckerberg said that the post did not violate Facebook's rules, writing in his own post: "Personally, I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. But I'm responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression."