Civil rights leaders ‘stunned’ after call with Zuckerberg


Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, arrives to testify during the House Financial Services hearing on An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.

Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Civil rights leaders who spoke with Mark Zuckerberg said they are shocked by the Facebook CEO’s refusal to take action against an incendiary post by President Donald Trump that Twitter obscured with a warning label. 

Leaders of three civil rights groups — Color of Change, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund — released the statement after a Monday night Zoom call with Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

“We are disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up,” wrote the leaders, Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference and Sherrilyn Ifill of LDF. “He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters. Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”

In posts on Twitter and Facebook on Friday, Trump addressed protests over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, saying, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” While Twitter flagged the tweet with a warning that it violates the company’s rules about “glorifying violence,” Facebook took no action.

Trump and Zuckerberg had a productive call on Friday, people on both sides of the matter told Axios. CNBC confirmed the call. In a Facebook post that day, Zuckerberg said he personally has “a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric” but defended the decision to maintain

Trump denied he intended to incite violence.

On Monday, hundreds of Facebook employees took part in a “virtual walkout” in a rare show of opposition within the company. The employees shared on Twitter that they were ashamed and upset by Zuckerberg’s decision to leave Trump’s post untouched.

“We’re grateful that leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback with Mark and Sheryl. It is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

This is not the first time Facebook has been criticized for its approach to civil rights issues. At a congressional hearing last year, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chair of the Financial Services Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, grilled Zuckerberg on Facebook’s record on diversity and civil rights. Beatty told Zuckerberg at the time, “It’s almost like you think this is a joke when you have ruined the lives of many people, discriminated against them.”

Facebook was charged last year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development with “discrimination” in its housing advertising practices after settling a lawsuit with the ACLU over the issue. HUD argued in a complaint that the platform’s design allowed for housing and services ads to be shown in a biased way. As part of its settlement with the ACLU, Facebook agreed to overhaul its advertising targeting for housing, credit and employment.

A former employee wrote in a public memo in 2018 that Facebook has “a black people problem.” The employee, Mark Luckie, who is black, said Facebook’s employees are not as diverse as its user base and described instances of racial discrimination within the company. A spokesperson at the time said Facebook has “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.”

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WATCH: Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook from Trump’s social media crackdown, and everything else you missed in business news: CNBC After Hours

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