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Inside the Facebook conservative employee protest against ‘intolerant’ company

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Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg.

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  • More than 160 Facebook employees are pushing back
    against what they call the company’s “intolerant” liberal
    culture.
  • They have joined a new internal message board group
    intended to promote “political diversity.”
  • There have previously been incidents where Facebook
    employees have refused to work with or talk to colleagues over
    politics.
  • Some conservative employees feel they need to stay “in
    the closet” about their beliefs, and can’t talk openly to their
    colleagues about their views.

A turbulent political climate is spreading across Facebook’s
employee ranks, pitting coworkers against each other in heated
chat room arguments, and in some cases, causing tensions that
ripple throughout the workplace.

More than 100 employees have rallied in a group on Facebook’s
internal Workplace messageboard founded by a conservative
employee to protest what they alleged is an “intolerant” culture
towards conservatism. 

Posters promoting the group and attacking the “outrage mob” have
appeared around campus, and debates among employees have broken
out across Facebook Workplace over the company’s approach to
politics. 

There have also previously been some incidents in which Facebook
employees have refused to work with or talk to certain colleagues
because of their political beliefs, an employee told Business
Insider.

“You can…see the dripping of hate off them,” the source said,
describing the way “liberal” employees behave around outspoken
their conservative colleagues.

The tense atmosphere highlights how even famously liberal Silicon
Valley has become sucked into the vortex of America’s chaotic
national politics, as companies like Facebook grapple with their
political role and influence on the public stage and within the
workplace. 

“Anyone who says there’s not a liberal bias here is either lying,
or just so blinded by their political views they can’t see the
bias,” the source said. 

Inside the group: ‘No memes or straw men’

The internal Facebook group, “FB’ers for Political Diversity,”
was founded by Brian Amerige, a senior engineer, following a post
last week decrying what he views as the company’s “intolerant”
liberal culture. (The existence of the group
was first reported on Tuesday by The New York Times
.)

Employees who view the group are greeted with a banner featuring
apparent quotes from conservative Facebook employees, including
“They say that every opinion is welcome, but it’s really not,”
“It’s not easy speaking out here, so props to you and good luck
with the outrage mob,” and “I agree with you 100% but I’m too
scared to show it publicly.”

Amerige wrote in his initial post,
“We Have a Problem with Political Diversity”
:

“We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different
views. We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to
attack—often in mobs—anyone who presents a view that appears to
be in opposition to left-leaning ideology. We throw labels that
end in ​*obe​ and ​*ist​ at each other, attacking each other’s
character rather than their ideas.”

As of Tuesday, the group now has more than 160 members. It
includes both conservative and liberal employees who agree with
its message, an employee said.

Discussions range from whether there’s “a socialist version of
Atlas Shrugged,” a libertarian-objectivist classic, to the
definitions of hate speech.

And there “meta” discussions about the group itself and its aims:
“[There is] an external impression that we are ideologues in an
echo chamber, pursuing a goal of remaking FB’s culture in a way
that pleases us,” an employee wrote. “I hope this group doesn’t
become a forum for constant arguments by people who adamantly
disagree with each other,” wrote an operations employee in
another post.

Amerige laid out a set of rules for the group early on,
including: No personal attacks, including calling people racist
for supporting a public figure that someone believes is racist;
“assumption of good faith is a prerequisite to participation,”
and “no memes or straw men.”

Reached for comment, Facebook spokesperson Bertie Thomson
referred Business Insider to a statement issued Tuesday: “On Day
1 of Facebook’s new hire orientation in Menlo Park, everyone
hears from our Chief Diversity Officer about the importance of
diversity and how to have respectful conversations with people
who have different viewpoints.”

Some conservative Facebook employees feel they have to stay ‘in
the closet’

The Facebook employee, who was not authorized to speak publicly,
told Business Insider that the political climate since the
formation of the group has been “positive,” and “a lot of people
who you wouldn’t expect to be conservative actually came and
joined the group and actually came out as conservatives.”

More generally though, the person said that the majority of
conservative Facebook employees feel uncomfortable disclosing
their political stance to their more liberal coworkers. One trans
employee said she found it harder to “come out” as conservative
than as trans at Facebook, according to the source.

The Facebook employee also said conservatives at the company
believe they can be fired more easily than others, citing ousted
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey as an example: “If you’re
conservative at Facebook, you’re already walking on eggshells.
You will get fired quicker than if you’re a liberal in seconds.”

The size of the group — roughly 160 employees — is a tiny
proportion of Facebook’s total headcount of more than 25,000. But
the stance of its members illustrates a rift in the tech giant
between its politically liberal majority and a minority of
conservative employees who feel unable to speak freely.

“There is diversity at Facebook with its employees, but there is
definitely a lack of political diversity,” another employee told
Business Insider. “As Mr Zuckerberg said to Congress on Capital
Hill Facebook is located in an area that is left leaning. I would
say that is an understatement.”

In July, more than a month before founding the FB’ers for
Political Diversity” group, Amerige spoke out against a mural in
Facebook’s new MPK21 building which says “GENDER FREE,” labeling
it “radical leftist art.”

“Facebook is free to put up whatever art it wants, but I just
want to register my frustration and frankly the disgust I feel
every time I pass this,” he wrote.

He criticized it as an attempt “to wipe out the validity of
gender as a concept,” arguing that “we do not make progress
towards treating people as individuals by blanking out the
existence of what makes us different from one another.”

Posters promoting “FB’ers for Political Diversity” have
since been stuck beneath it.


facebook genderfree mural
The
“GENDER FREE” mural at Facebook’s
headquarters.


ialvarock/Instagram


‘Political diversity is not ipso facto good’

Amerige’s post on Political Diversity — as well as his earlier
criticism of the mural — drew condemnation from some colleagues.

“This isn’t nearly [as] interesting of a take as you think
friendo. Being called out for behaving in a harmful way is part
of learning how not to be harmful, if you take that as an
personal attack rather than an opportunity, that’s your problem,”
said a customer support specialist, criticising his initial
response to the mural.

“Political ‘diversity’ is not ipso facto good,” said another
software engineer. “Politics is the study of power, and not all
uses of power are good.”

Others were more supportive. “This is a really important note.
Thank you for writing,” wrote a software engineer, arguing the
definition of “tolerance” has shifted. “The culture that flows
from this new ‘tolerance’ tends to be rather unkind, unforgiving,
and ironically, intolerant (by the classic definition). 

Another employee added: “‘I disagree of what you say, but I will
defend to the death your right to say it.’ We need to channel
Voltaire more in the company today. So many viewpoints are
summarily dismissed as *ist/*obe because they are not
understood.”

Silicon Valley is under siege

Silicon Valley, the heart of the American tech industry and has
been fraught with allegations of bias in Trump’s America.

In July 2017, Google found itself at the centre of a political
firestorm after engineer James Damore wrote an internal post
decrying what he characterised as “Google’s Ideological Echo
Chamber,” in which he attacked the company’s diversity efforts.
Some conservatives also allege that social media firms are
deliberately silencing and censoring non-liberal voices on their
platforms.

Facebook has grappled with how to approach dissent by
conservative employees before.
As Business Insider previously reported
 in 2017, a group
called “Facebook Anon” where employees could chat anonymously
morphed into a hub for conservative, Trump-supporting employees
during the 2016 election.

It was ultimately shut down in December 2016 as the talk “turned
ugly and … alarmed management.”

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