Frustrated Facebook employees slammed CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday during a company-wide meeting, questioning his leadership and decision-making, following a week in which the platform promoted violent conspiracy theories and gave safe harbor to militia groups. The billionaire chief executive was speaking via webcast at the company’s weekly all-hands meeting, attempting to address questions about violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the QAnon conspiracy that has proliferated across Facebook.
The meeting came one day after the Verge reported that a self-proclaimed militia group calling itself “Kenosha Guard” had used its Facebook page to issue a “call to arms” — violating Facebook’s own policies — and remained online even though at least two people reported it before the shooting. It also followed weeks of employee unrest, in which the company’s rank and file has urged the CEO to combat the spread of QAnon-related content on its platform.
All of Facebook’s more than 50,000 employees can watch and comment on the stream during the meeting, or view a recording after its conclusion — and as Zuckerberg spoke, angry comments poured in.
“At what point do we take responsibility for enabling hate filled bile to spread across our services?” wrote one employee. “[A]nti semitism, conspiracy, and white supremacy reeks across our services.”
“At what point do we take responsibility for enabling hate filled bile to spread across our services?”
There has been increasing internal strife at the social network that came to a head when the company failed to take action on a May post from President Donald Trump that suggested state violence would be used against people protesting the police killing of George Floyd. As internal morale has plummeted, some employees have openly challenged Zuckerberg, who maintains majority shareholder voting control and complete decision-making power at Facebook. The level of employee pushback, which included a virtual walkout in June, is unprecedented in the company’s 16 year-history.
Zuckerberg opened his Thursday address by discussing the police shooting of Jacob Blake and subsequent violence in Kenosha. When he said images from Wisconsin were “painful and really discouraging,” employees jumped in the comments section to ask why Facebook had been slow to react, particularly after at least one Kenosha militia page had remained on the platform after a 17-year-old shot and killed two protestors on Tuesday night.
While Zuckerberg said that the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, which showed no clear connection to the Kenosha Guard page, were taken down, he admitted Facebook had made “an operational mistake.” The page had violated Facebook’s new rules introduced last week that labeled militia and QAnon conspiracy theory groups as “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” for their celebrations of violence.
The company did not catch the page despite user reports, Zuckerberg said, because the complaints had been sent to content moderation contractors who were not versed in “how certain militias” operate. “On second review, doing it more sensitively, the team that was responsible for dangerous organizations recognized that this violated the policies and we took it down.”
That answer didn’t satisfy some employees.
“We need to get better at avoiding mistakes and being more proactive,” one wrote. ”Feels like we’re caught in a cycle of responding to damage after it’s already been done rather than constructing mechanisms to nip these issues before they result in real harm.”