Facebook fired an engineer who publicly — and vehemently — opposed the social-media giant’s inaction on Donald Trump, over a tweet criticizing a coworker for not cosigning a Black Lives Matter statement.
The employee, user-interface engineer Brandon Dail, was terminated over a June 2 tweet in which he challenged a colleague who had refused to add a statement in support of Black Lives Matter to an open-source document. “Intentionally not making a statement is already political,” Dail wrote in the tweet.
“Today was my last day at Facebook,” Dail tweeted Friday, explaining he was “let go for for calling out an employee’s inaction here on Twitter. I stand by what I said. They didn’t give me the chance to quit.”
Facebook confirmed Dail was fired but declined to comment further, per Reuters.
Dail remained unrepentant about the situation. In a follow-up Twitter thread Friday evening, he acknowledged that his publicly calling out the fellow employee “violates Facebook’s respectful workplace policy.” But, he added, “I still stand by it.”
“I’m not claiming I was unjustly terminated,” Dail wrote. “I was fed up with Facebook, the harm it’s doing, and the silence of those complicit (including myself).”
The controversy centers on Trump’s May 29 post calling protesters in Minneapolis “THUGS” and saying about the unrest, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” The president cross-posted that to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. In an unprecedented action, Twitter placed a warning label in front of the same post, saying that violated its rules banning the glorification of violence. (Trump claims he was ignorant of the phrase’s racist history, telling Fox News he meant that “if there’s looting, there’s probably going to be shooting” and denying it was intended as a threat.)
Facebook has faced mounting criticism from its own employees and others for deciding to not remove the inflammatory Trump post. Among them was Dail, who tweeted, “Disappointed that, again, I need to call this out: Trump’s glorification of violence on Facebook is disgusting and it should absolutely be flagged or removed from our platforms. I categorically disagree with any policy that does otherwise.” On June 1, hundreds of Facebookers (including Dail) staged a virtual work-stoppage in protest.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously said Trump’s “looting and shooting” post didn’t violate company policies forbidding incitement of violence, and he has said the company will not “do fact-checks for politicians.”
Facebook is now reviewing its content-moderation policies in the wake of the controversy, according to Zuckerberg. In a related development, Chris Cox is returning as the company’s chief product officer, a little over a year after quitting Facebook. Cox wanted Facebook to prioritize efforts to mitigate polarizing content and disinformation, an initiative Zuckerberg and other top execs reportedly back-burnered.
This week Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, said they were “deeply shaken and disgusted” by Trump’s comments about protests demanding racial justice; that was in a letter to a group of scientists backed by their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative nonprofit org that also criticized Facebook’s inaction on the Trump “looting and shooting” post. In trying to explain why Facebook didn’t take any action on the president’s comment, the CEO wrote that he has “a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric.”
Also this week, the campaign of Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, targeted Facebook with a call for supporters to sign an open letter demanding the social giant act more proactively to eliminate misinformation on the platform and fact-check political ads.
In response to the Biden campaign, Facebook said in part, “There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.” Facebook also said, “Two weeks ago the President of the United States issued an executive order directing Federal agencies to prevent social media sites from engaging in activities like fact-checking political statements.” Trump’s May 28 executive order — triggered by his rage over Twitter’s fact-check labels on his inaccurate tweets about mail-in voting — seeks to rescind internet companies’ legal-liability protections over speech on their platforms if they “stifle viewpoints with which they disagree.” Trump was promptly sued by a tech policy group that alleges the order violates the First Amendment.