Facebook staff walk out over Trump posts

Facebook employees stage a walk-out over its handling of recent tweets by US President Donald Trump.
Facebook employees stage a walk-out over its handling of recent tweets by US President Donald Trump.

Facebook employees have walked away from their work-from-home desks and taken to Twitter to accuse chief executive Mark Zuckerberg of inadequately policing US President Donald Trump's posts as strictly as the rival platform has done.

Reuters saw dozens of online posts from employees critical of Zuckerberg's decision to leave Trump's most inflammatory verbiage unchallenged where Twitter had labelled it.

Some top managers participated in the protest on Monday, reminiscent of a 2018 walkout at Alphabet Inc's Google over sexual harassment.

It was a rare case of staff publicly taking their CEO to task, with one employee tweeting that thousands participated. Among them were all seven engineers on the team maintaining the React code library which supports Facebook's apps.

"Facebook's recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction," they said in a joint statement published on Twitter.

"Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind," wrote Ryan Freitas, identified on Twitter as director of product design for Facebook's News Feed. He added he had mobilized "50+ likeminded folks" to lobby for internal change.

A Facebook employee said Zuckerberg's weekly Friday question-and-answer session would be moved up this week to Tuesday.

Facebook Inc will allow employees participating in the protest to take the time off without drawing down their vacation days, spokesman Andy Stone said.

Last week, nationwide unrest erupted after the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis last Monday. Video footage showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes before he died.

On Friday, Twitter Inc affixed a warning label to a Trump tweet that included the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter said it violated rules against glorifying violence but was left up as a public interest exception.

Facebook declined to act on the same message, and Zuckerberg sought to distance his company from the fight between the president and Twitter.

On Friday, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that while he found Trump's remarks "deeply offensive", they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence and people should know whether the government was planning to deploy force.

Zuckerberg's post also said Facebook had been in touch with the White House to explain its policies.

Australian Associated Press