Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
Mark Zuckerberg tried and failed on Tuesday to pacify his own employees’ anger at his decision to defend Donald Trump’s comments threatening violence against protesters.
Over 20,000 Facebook employees tuned in to a virtual town hall where Zuckerberg answered questions, and one employee, engineer Brandon Dail, decided to vent his frustration on rival social network Twitter.
“It's crystal clear today that leadership refuses to stand with us," Dail said while the meeting was going on. When asked if anything had changed since he took part in a virtual walkout on Monday with hundreds of other employees, Dail replied: “Absolutely nothing, and that's the problem.”
Dail is one of several increasingly vocal Facebook employees who are publicly lambasting their CEO’s decision not to censor Trump after he warned protesters that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter last week flagged the comment for “glorifying violence” and has since been berated by Trump and his administration for “stifling” free speech and “interfering” in the 2020 election.
As well as holding an unprecedented walkout on Monday, several employees have announced their decision to leave the company because of its stance.
In a further sign of employee displeasure at Zuckerberg’s stance, employees who attended the meeting leaked audio recordings to the media moments after it ended.
On the call, Zuckerberg explained his position by saying that he was defending “free speech” and that he had made the “tough decision” which was “pretty thorough.” He admitted he should have offered employees greater transparency into how the decision was made according to the Verge.
He also said that after extensive research, he decided Trump’s comments “had no history of being read as a dog whistle for vigilante supporters to take justice into their own hands,” according to Recode — even though the comment in question is very similar to language segregationists used when referring to black protesters.
Zuckerberg said he was upset by Trump’s comments, but that those feelings should not be part of the decision-making process.
“I knew that I needed to separate out my personal opinion … from what our policy is and the principles of the platform we’re running are — knowing that the decision that we made was going to lead to a lot of people being very upset inside the company and a lot of the media criticism we’re going to get,” said Zuckerberg.
While many inside Facebook agree with Zuckerberg’s stance, there is a vocal group who strongly oppose the decision and see it as kowtowing to Trump and the Republican party.
And Zuckerberg’s explanations did not change their minds.
“Why are the smartest people in the world focused on contorting and twisting our policies to avoid antagonizing Trump?” one employee asked, according to the New York Times.
Another told the Verge: “Everyone’s grateful we have a chance to address these things directly with him. At the same time, no one thinks he gave a single real answer.” One employee added that Zuckerberg looked “scared,” as if he “fears his employees turning on him.”
The meeting with employees came just hours after another attempt to diffuse the situation fell flat.
Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg held a late-night Zoom call with civil rights leaders on Monday, but that meeting did not go well.
"We are disappointed and stunned by Mark's incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up," representatives from the groups — Color of Change, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund — said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
Cover: Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman of Facebook, speaks on the second day of the 56th Munich Security Conference in February 2020. Tobias Hase/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images