‘Racist’ Facebook has more Black Lives Matter posters than black people
Ex-employee claims there is an anti-black climate at the social media company
A black former Facebook employee has accused the company of maintaining a climate of racial discrimination in which black and Latino workers are feared, marginalised and harassed by security guards.
In a scathing memo posted on his personal Facebook page on Tuesday, Mark Luckie, a departing manager at the social network’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, said the social network “had a black people problem” and that its HR department was deaf to complaints.
Describing a culture in which loud support for ethnic minorities clashes with their actual treatment, he said he had “lost the will to advocate on behalf of Facebook” and no longer wished to be a part of it.
“Racial discrimination at Facebook is real,” wrote Luckie. “In my time at the company, I’ve heard far too many stories from black employees of a colleague or manager calling them ‘hostile’ or ‘aggressive’ for simply sharing their thoughts in a manner not dissimilar from their nonblack team members.
“Too many black employees can recount stories of being aggressively accosted by campus security beyond what was necessary. At least two or three times a day, every day, a colleague will look directly at me and tap or hold their wallet or shove their hands down their pocket to clutch it tightly until I pass.
“To feel like an oddity at your own place of employment because of the colour of your skin while passing posters reminding you to be your authentic self feels in itself inauthentic.”
The memo comes after a series of employee revolts in Silicon Valley over ethnic diversity, sexual harassment and work with controversial partners such as the US defence department or the government of China. At Google, a mass walkout of employees protesting the company’s handling of sexual assault allegations forced executives to end the practice of requiring all new employees to accept binding arbitration in any dispute with their bosses.
In his post, Luckie, who managed Facebook’s relationships with social media celebrities, focusing on “underrepresented groups”, praised its diversity efforts for increasing the percentage of black employees from 2% in 2016 to 4% in 2018. But he said there were still too few to reflect its users.
“There is often more diversity in keynote presentations than the teams who present them,” he wrote. “In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people.”
Worse, he claimed, HR managers often support the people being complained against over the people complaining, dismissing their reports as “figments of imagination” or “not being a team player”.
That led Facebook to ignore the needs of its black users, whom Luckie said use Facebook more intensely and more frequently than the general population, but who often feel they are being unfairly targeted by Facebook’s moderators. He cited Mary Merrill, a black psychologist, whose posts beginning “dear white people” were incorrectly removed, but who found that identical messages posted by white peers were left online.
Facebook is increasingly using AI systems to find and remove content that violates its rules before anyone sees it, and falsely reporting content as against the rules is a common way of suppressing opponents on social media.
In a recent announcement, Mark Zuckerberg specifically cited racial issues as difficult to moderate, saying it is often unclear whether someone is using a racial slur in order to condemn it “as opposed to using it to attack others”.
After Luckie’s memo was originally circulated inside Facebook on November 8, one senior manager privately messaged him to call it “self-serving and disingenuous”, according to screenshots shared by Luckie on Twitter.
“I’ve got to be open with you as a brother – your post has me worked up for a bunch of reasons,” the manager said, arguing Luckie’s memo did not represent the black experience at Facebook and did not reflect the hard work others had done.
Luckie said in response that he had received “overwhelming feedback” from other employees who said they had experienced the same problems, and that the sentiment of his post was “not unique to me”.
A spokesperson for Facebook said: “Over the last few years, we’ve been working diligently to increase the range of perspectives among those who build our products and serve the people who use them throughout the world. The growth in representation of people from more diverse groups, working in many different functions across the company, is a key driver of our ability to succeed. “We want to fully support all employees when there are issues reported and when there may be micro-behaviours that add up. We are going to keep doing all we can to be a truly inclusive company.”
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited