“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
– William F. Buckley
As reported in the New York Times, and many other places now, a group of Facebook employees has spoken out against the company’s ‘political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views’. Those are the words of Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, who wrote a post on Facebook’s internal message board last week. Titled “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity,” it quickly took off inside the social network.
Since he published his thoughts, dozens of other FB employees have joined with him to form an on-line group; FB’ers for Political Diversity. The aim of the initiative, according to Mr. Amerige’s memo, is to create a space for ideological diversity within the company.
The New York Times reports that:
The new group has upset other Facebook employees, who said its online posts were offensive to minorities. One engineer, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation, said several people had lodged complaints with their managers about FB’ers for Political Diversity and were told that it had not broken any company rules.
I imagine some are upset. Probably exposure to differing ideas offends them. What it has to do with minorities is a mystery.
Within Facebook, several employees said, people have argued over the decisions to ban certain accounts while allowing others. At staff meetings, they said, some workers have repeatedly asked for more guidance on what content the company disallows, and why. Others have said Facebook, out of fear of being seen as biased, has let too many right-wing groups flourish on the site.
The dispute over employees’ political ideology arose a week before Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, is scheduled to testify at a Senate hearing about social media manipulation in elections. A team helping Ms. Sandberg get ready for the hearing next Wednesday has warned her that some Republican lawmakers may raise questions about Facebook and biases, according to two people involved in the preparations…
Other Silicon Valley companies, including Google, have also experienced a wave of employee activism over diversity. If tech companies are willing to adjust their workplaces to make underrepresented groups more welcome, some employees argue, they should extend the same regard to those who do not fit the liberal-leaning Silicon Valley mold.
Here is the complete text of Mr. Amerige’s post:
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.
We do this so consistently that employees are afraid to say anything when they disagree with what’s around them politically. HR has told me that this is not a rare concern, and I’ve personally gotten over a hundred messages to that effect. Your colleagues are afraid because they know that they — not their ideas — will be attacked. They know that all the talk of “openness to different perspectives” does not apply to causes of “social justice,” immigration, “diversity”, and “equality.” On this issues, you can either keep quiet or sacrifice your reputation and career.
These are not fears without cause. Because we tear down posters welcoming Trump supporters. We regularly propose removing Thiel from our board because he supported Trump. We’re quick to suggest firing people who turn out to be misunderstood, and even quicker to conclude our colleagues are bigots. We have made “All Lives Matter” a fireable offense. We put Palmer Luckey through a witch hunt because he paid for anti-Hillary ads. We write each other ad-hoc feedback in the PSC tool for having “offensive” ideas. We ask HR to investigate those who dare to criticize Islam’s human rights record for creating a “non inclusive environment.” And they called me a transphobe when I called out our corporate art for being politically radical.
WHY THIS MATTERS
This is not okay. Not just for our internal culture, but for our own viability as a company. While the problem isn’t unique to us, we are entrusted by a great part of the world to be impartial and transparent carriers of people’s stories, ideas, and commentary. Congress doesn’t think we can do this. The President doesn’t think we can do this. And like them or not, we deserve that criticism. We are blind to and dismissive of what people beyond our walls (let alone even within our walls) think about complex issues that matter. I’ve been here for nearly 6.5 years and this has gotten exponentially worse in the last 2.
FB’ers for Political Diversity
I don’t know how to fix this problem on my own. What I do know is that these issues can’t be fixed if we continue to be isolated and silent. So that’s what this group is for: (a) to be a space where you can talk about these issues without fear of the mob, and in the process (b) to talk about how we can fix this.
If you’re interested in helping make Facebook a company that’s more tolerant and active-minded about different political and ideological perspectives, join FB’ers for Political Diversity.
There’s only going to be one core rule in the group, and it’s that if you attack a person’s character, rather than their ideas, you will be banned.
Let’s see where this goes.