October 26, 2020

Facebook Engineer Pens Scathing Letter Saying Company Is On The Wrong Side of History

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/facebook-enginneer-quits-wrong-side-of-history_n_5f594918c5b62874bc17e773

A Facebook software engineer named Ashok Chandwaney publicly quit on Tuesday morning after posting a lengthy letter to the company’s intranet, claiming that Facebook was “profiting off hate in the US and globally.”

“It is clear to me that despite the best efforts of many of us who work here … Facebook is choosing to be on the wrong side of history,” Chandwaney wrote, arguing that Facebook was failing to embody its much-touted five core values — be bold, focus on impact, move fast, be open and build social value. 

Chandwaney went on to list multiple examples of negligence when it came to Facebook policing extremist activity and disinformation. These included international examples of widespread hate speech against the Rohingya people in Myanmar as well as instances in the U.S., such as Facebook’s inaction regarding militia groups plotting violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and its unwillingness to remove a controversial post by President Donald Trump warning protesters that a violent intervention might be necessary.

“Every day ‘the looting starts, the shooting starts’ stays up is a day that we choose to minimize regulatory risk at the expense of the safety of Black, Indigenous, and people of color,” Chandwaney wrote, referencing the inflammatory language that Trump used in that post. “Violent hate groups and far-right militias are out there, and they’re using Facebook to recruit and radicalize people who will go on to commit violent hate crimes. So where’s the metric about this?”

Chandwaney said that despite the recommendations of multiple civil rights organizers and a July internal audit, which now seemed like little more than a “PR deflection strategy,” Facebook had remained resistant to change.

“What I wish I saw were a serious prioritization of social good even when there isn’t an immediately obvious business value to it, or when there may be business harm that comes from it – for instance, removing the sitting president’s incitement to violence, which could lead to regulatory action,” Chandwaney wrote. “It seems that Facebook hasn’t found the business value to be had in aggressively pursuing the existing credible strategies to remove hate from the platform – despite pressure from civil society.”

In a statement sent to The Washington Post, Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois rejected Chandwaney’s claims, arguing that the social media giant was not profiting from hate. 

“We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and are in deep partnership with outside experts to review and update our policies,” she said. “This summer we launched an industry leading policy to go after QAnon, grew our fact-checking program, and removed millions of posts tied to hate organizations — over 96% of which we found before anyone reported them to us.”

The same day that Chandwaney’s letter went public, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied that the social platform is a “right-wing echo chamber” and pledged that Facebook would work to limit misinformation about any eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

Zuckerberg added that with the November elections looming, his team would also “very aggressively take down any threats against those people who are going to be involved in doing the counting and making sure that the election goes the way it’s supposed to.” 

Read the entire resignation letter here, courtesy of The Washington Post.