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Facebook Employees Stage ‘Virtual Walkout’ Over Platform’s Refusal to Flag Trump’s Anti-Protest Posts

“I’m responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in his defense

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A group of Facebook employees organized a “virtual walkout” Monday in protest of the social media site’s inactivity with regard to President Trump’s posts about protests this past week.

“These THUGS are dishonoring 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!” Trump posted on Facebook early Friday. He also shared the same message on Twitter, a sentiment that the social media platform flagged and supplemented with the warning: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

Friday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took to his Facebook page to defend his decision not to follow Twitter’s lead. “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.”

According to the New York Times, dozens of employees protested the move by taking the day off to support protesters, setting their auto-responders to reflect their views. Since all employees are working from home due to the coronavirus, staffers were unable to stage a physical walkout. Other employees have circulated petitions against Facebook’s inactivity and threatened to resign. Zuckerberg will be holding his weekly meeting with staff on Thursday to discuss the dispute over Trump’s posts. Employees also called for the resignation of Facebook’s vice president of global policy, Joel Kaplan, a close friend of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” a Facebook spokesperson told Rolling Stone. “We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership.” Facebook’s press team did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

On Sunday, Zuckerberg posted to his Facebook page once more, promising to donate $10 million to “groups working on racial justice. We’re working with our civil rights advisors and our employees to identify organizations locally and nationally that could most effectively use this right now.”

“I know Facebook needs to do more to support equality and safety for the Black community through our platforms,” he added. “As hard as it was to watch, I’m grateful that Darnella Frazier posted on Facebook her video of George Floyd’s murder because we all needed to see that. We need to know George Floyd’s name. But it’s clear Facebook also has more work to do to keep people safe and ensure our systems don’t amplify bias.”

According to the Times, in 2019 only 3.8 percent of Facebook’s employees were black — up from 2 percent in 2014.

After George Floyd — an unarmed 46-year-old black man — was killed by police in Minnesota last Monday, protests broke out around the country calling for an end to police brutality. President Trump has shown open disdain for the protesters on social media, calling for antifa to be designated a terrorist organization, among other requests to squash protests.

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