Today, Facebook CEO and much-rumoured presidential hopeful Mark Zuckerberg posted to his personal page explaining why the company would renew efforts to crack down on hate speech across the site, citing the terrible violence that transpired at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
The same day, though, the Wall Street Journal reported that Zuckerberg has some experience with calls coming from inside the house. Approximately a month after the 2016 US elections, Facebook management took down an internal group for Facebook employees called “FB Anon” as part of a larger crackdown on anonymous posting.
The title of the group was an obvious callback to the Anonymous movement which spawned out of imageboards such as 4chan and its even seedier cousin 8chan. According to the WSJ report, Zuckerberg’s employees began using the group as a “hub for employees who backed Donald Trump’s candidacy” and “conservative political debate that sometimes degenerated into racist or sexist comments”.
It isn’t entirely clear from the WSJ report or another article on Business Insider what kinds of racist or sexist comments were getting posted to the FB Anon group. One post cited in the WSJ account seemed along the lines of fired Google engineer James Damore-style bigotry masquerading as scientific truth, arguing Facebook had lowered its standards to admit more female engineers. Frankly, considering this particular president’s supporters, it would be surprising if there wasn’t some debate over who is or isn’t a “cuck”.
Per the Business Insider report, after Facebook management shut down the group, posters featuring an anime character and the words “Silenced, but not silent” began appearing across the company’s campus.
None of this undermines Zuckerberg’s personal thoughts on what Facebook needs to do in the wake of Charlottesville, of course, and his post seemed about as heartfelt as a statement from the chief of a major corporation generally gets.
But the WSJ report notes management’s response to the FB Anon group “illustrates Facebook’s struggle to cultivate open, freewheeling debate, while still following company rules of decency to not alienate employees with racist and sexist views” — and one casualty of the shutdown was another anonymous page for female and minority employees to discuss allegations of mistreatment at the company.
The company has long done poorly at hiring a diverse workforce. While it freely admits the dance between discouraging hate speech and censorship is difficult, critics continue to insist its emphasis on removing only the most extreme content is a laissez-faire approach that has allowed hate speech to proliferate on the site.