Facebook is under fire this morning for alleged discrimination. On Tuesday, a former Facebook manager shared a memo that he sent to all of Facebook’s employees. The memo outlined the fact that the social network has a problem with people of color. In this case, African American people. Shortly after sending the memo, Mark Luckie left his job at Facebook as a strategic partner manager for global influences focused on underrepresented voices. In his memo, Luckie indicated that African American people are more likely to use Facebook to communicate with families and friends on a regular basis. But their efforts to create safe spaces on the platform get reported as hate speech, which results in their content being removed without notice. In addition, some people’s accounts are being suspended as well – without notice and indefinitely.
Luckie also noted that minority groups are excluded from communication. This is reflected in resource allocation, the industry events that Facebook sponsors, and its guest lists for external programs. In addition, Luckie said that Facebook’s African American employees are called “hostile” or “aggressive” by other team members for “simply sharing their thoughts”. Why is this evening happening? Luckie says that the Human Resources Department is “often a dead end”. When African American employees go to HR with issues, Luckie says that they make them think that what they’re bringing forward are actually a figment of their imagination. In fact, according to Luckie, Facebook tends to protect the manager, not the employee.
And this isn’t the first time that Facebook has been accused of discriminatory behavior. In August, the US Department of Housing and Urban Developmentfor letting landlords and home sellers engage in housing discrimination. HUD said the social network let advertisers choose who viewed their ads based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, and ZIP code. Facebook said it would “continue working directly with HUD to address their concerns.” But is that enough?
We often see Facebook say that they will “work” on fixing whatever the problem is. Again – is that enough? In my opinion, the short answer is no. As I said, this is something that we see from Facebook all the time. What we don’t see is Facebook putting a plan in place to address the concern at hand. In fact, it took them being exposed through the Facebook Analytica scandal before they even started to consider not sharing user data with people who weren’t entitled to that information.
In September, the American Civil Liberties Union filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and 10 employers for allegedly targeting job ads on the platform to men only. This meant they were excluding women and non-binary users from seeing the ads. Again, Facebook’s response was that they were reviewing the complaint and looked forward to defending its practices.
Facebook has been accused of many things over the last couple of years, and now they’re being accused of being racist. Both – against those that work for them, and against people in the community who happen to be people of color, just trying to use their platform. I’m interested to see where this will go as I think that something needs to change at Facebook – and soon.