Zuckerberg reportedly faces criticism from Facebook employees over QAnon and militia content


Facebook’s content moderation decisions continue to land the company in hot water.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook is under pressure, including from some of its own employees, to do more to crack down on militia and conspiracy theory groups fueling violence after two protesters were shot to death on Tuesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

The social network’s employees criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership and questioned whether the company was doing enough to combat hate speech during an internal virtual meeting on Thursday, BuzzFeed reported. 

The backlash from employees shows that discontent over the company’s content moderation decisions continues to grow. In June, Facebook employees staged a rare virtual walkout and publicly criticized Zuckerberg after the social network left up a post from President Donald Trump they said could incite violence. In the post, Trump wrote “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” but Facebook determined those remarks didn’t violate its rules against inciting violence. Trump also made the same comments on Twitter but his tweet was labeled for violating the site’s rules against glorifying violence.

Facebook landed in hot water again this week after The Verge reported that Facebook users flagged an event organized by a militia group called the Kenosha Guard that issued a “call to arms” before the protests for inciting violence. Users received messages from the company stating the content didn’t violate the social network’s rules. The company pulled down the Kenosha Guard page on Wednesday after the shooting. Facebook’s failure to remove the account more quickly, though, sparked scrutiny from civil rights groups and the company’s employees. 

“At what point do we take responsibility for enabling hate filled bile to spread across our services?” one employee reportedly said during the meeting. “[A]nti semitism, conspiracy, and white supremacy reeks across our services.”

Zuckerberg, who owns the majority voting rights to Facebook, reportedly told employees that the Kenosha Guard page violated rules the company rolled out last week to address organizations and movements that pose a risk to public safety but don’t meet the criteria to be considered a “dangerous” individual or organization that would be banned from the platform. Still, he admitted to employees that Facebook made an “operational mistake” in how the company handled the Kenosha Guard page. Content moderation contractors who work with the company made the wrong call because they weren’t aware how “certain militias” operated, he reportedly told employees, and the page was later pulled down. 

Protests against racism erupted after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police during an arrest on Sunday and became paralyzed. On Tuesday, two people died and one person was wounded during a shooting at a protest in Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old resident of Antioch, Illinois, was accused of killing the two protesters. He was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide and other criminal counts. Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesman Liz Bourgeois told BuzzFeed that the Kenosha shooting was “painful for everyone, especially our Black community.”

Facebook hasn’t found any evidence that Rittenhouse “followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited on the Event Page they organized,” she told BuzzFeed. “However, the Kenosha Guard Event and Page violated our new policy on militia organizations and have been removed on that basis. We launched this policy last week and we’re still scaling up our enforcement of it by a team of specialists on our Dangerous Organizations team,” she said.

Earlier this month, Facebook said it took down 790 groups, 100 pages and 1,500 ads tied to the right-wing conspiracy theory known as QAnon that falsely claims there’s a “deep state” plot against President Donald Trump and his supporters. Civil rights groups organized a campaign this year calling on businesses to stop buying ads on Facebook in July, until the social network does more to combat hate speech. 

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