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Facebook blocks former employee’s post complaining of racism at company

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Mark Zuckerberg.JPG
Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg.

Reuters

  • Last week, a former Facebook employee publicly shared a
    memo detailing his experiences of racism at the
    company.
  • Facebook then temporarily blocked the post, saying it
    violated its rules.
  • The incident highlights apparent issues with Facebook’s
    content moderation systems, and the company’s power to shape
    public debate.

Facebook temporarily took down a post by a former employee that
complained of racism at the company and alleged the social
network was failing its black users.

Last week, Mark Luckie, a strategic partner manager for
influencers, publicly announced his departure from the company,

and shared the goodbye note he had written to his Facebook
colleagues earlier in the month
.

It was a highly critical memo, detailing his experiences of
racism at Facebook and highlighting what he says are the
company’s failures to build a more inclusive workplace that is
supportive of people of color.

“Facebook’s disenfranchisement of black people on the platform
mirrors the marginalization of its black employees,” he wrote.
“Too many black employees can recount stories of being
aggressively accosted by campus security beyond what was
necessary.”

Facebook has been reeling from successive scandals over the past
year or so, from Cambridge Analytica to the spread of
misinformation on the platform amid genocide in Myanmar. Luckie’s
memo sparked a fresh firestorm of criticism of the company. But
he subsequently discovered that the social network temporarily
blocked users’ access to the post.


He wrote on Twitter on Tuesday
: “Turns out Facebook
took down my post challenging discrimination at the company,
disabling users’ ability to share or read it.”

(It’s not clear how long the post was unavailable to other users;
Luckie only discovered the issue had occurred on Tuesday morning,
having spent the last several days moving.)


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In a statement, Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison said the
company was investigating why it was blocked. “Mark Luckie’s post
does not violate our Community Standards and is available on our
site. We are looking into what happened,” he said.

There’s no indication that Facebook deliberately tried
to suppress or censor Luckie’s message. Instead, it seems more
likely that it was taken down as a result of overzealous
moderation efforts by Facebook, given its sensitive subject —
though whether this was a result of a human moderator or an
automated system isn’t yet clear.

But the incident highlights the extraordinary power Facebook has
to shape public debate that happens on its platform, and how
apparent mistakes can have significant consequences. And it
raises questions as to how frequently moderation mistakes might
occur when non-high-profile users discuss sensitive subjects,
those who don’t have the company or media connections to seek
recourse.

In the original memo, Luckie had said that black users appeared
to be unfairly targeted by Facebook’s moderation efforts,
writing: “Black people are finding that their attempts to create
‘safe spaces’ on Facebook for conversation among themselves are
being derailed by the platform itself. Non-black people are
reporting what are meant to be positive efforts as hate speech,
despite them often not violating Facebook’s terms of service.
Their content is removed without notice. Accounts are suspended
indefinitely.

“There is a prevailing theory among many black users that their
content is more likely to be taken down on the platform than any
other group. Even though the theories are mostly anecdotal,
Facebook does little to dissuade people from this idea.”

While we don’t yet exactly what happened with Luckie’s post, it’s
an unfortunate coincidence that it was subject to the exact same
problems that he sought to highlight.

“Further proves my point,” he tweeted.

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