Facebook engineer quits job and says Zuckerberg lied about disallowing speech that incites violence

Oliver O'Connell
LightRocket/Getty

A Facebook engineer who quit the company on Monday used the platform to announce his news, accusing founder Mark Zuckerberg of lying about the company’s policy regarding Donald Trump’s tweets.

Timothy J Aveni wrote that the president had been exempted from Facebook’s Community Standards for years, posting “abhorrent, targetted messages that would get any other Facebook user suspended from the platform”.

“He’s permitted to break the rules, since his political speech is ‘newsworthy’,” said Mr Aveni.

He then references Mr Trump’s post: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, which — intentionally or not — was a quote from Miami police chief Walter Headley in 1967 that provoked an angry response at the time. It seems this was the final straw for Mr Aveni.

He writes: “Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence. He showed us on Friday that this was a lie. Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act on increasingly dangerous rhetoric.”

He continues: “Since Friday, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand and process the decision not to remove the racist, violent post Trump made Thursday night, but Facebook, complicit in the propagation of weaponised hatred, is on the wrong side of history.”

Saying that he cannot keep excusing Facebook’s behaviour — providing a platform that enables politicians to radicalise individuals and glorify violence — he likens what is happening in the US to the “social media-fueled division” that has led to death in places such as the Philippines, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

“I’m scared for my country and I’m done trying to justify this,” says Mr Aveni.

His last day will be on 12 June, and he signed off his post with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Mr Zuckerberg defended his hands-off approach to Trump’s posts in a question and answer session with employees on Tuesday.

The timing of the session was moved up by two days after hundreds of employees staged a “virtual walkout” on Monday.

He argued that it was a “tough decision” not to do anything about Mr Trump’s inflammatory posts, but the process had been “pretty thorough”.

Mr Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s principles and policies around free speech “show that the right action where we are right now is to leave this up”.

Civil rights groups say that Facebook’s position is “totally confounding”. The company is under pressure to change its stance after Twitter began flagging Mr Trump’s tweets for glorifying violence and being inaccurate.

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