Facebook Employee Revolt Shows, Yet Again, That There Are Other Incentives Beyond Section 230

from the incentives-come-in-many-forms dept

One of the most frustrating claims that critics of Section 230 make is that because of Section 230 the big internet companies have no incentive to deal with awful content (abuse, harassment, bigotry, lies, etc.). Yet, over and over again we see why that’s not at all true. First of all, there’s strong incentive to deal with crap content on your platform because if you don’t your users will go elsewhere. So the userbase itself is incentive. Then, as we’ve discussed, there are incentives from advertisers who don’t want their ads showing up next to such junk and can pressure companies to change.

Finally, there are the employees of these companies. While so much of the narrative around internet companies focuses (somewhat ridiculously) on the larger-than-life profiles of their founders/CEOs, the reality is that there are thousands of employees at these companies, many of whom don’t want to be doing evil shit or enabling evil shit. And they have influence. Over the past few years, there have been multiple examples of employees revolting and pushing back against company decisions on things like government contracts and surveillance.

And, now they’re pushing back on the wider impact of these companies. That’s a Buzzfeed article detailing how a bunch of employees inside Facebook are getting fed up with the company’s well-documented problems, its failure to change, and its failure to take into account its broader impact.

?This time, our response feels different,? wrote Facebook engineer Dan Abramov in a June 26 post on Workplace, the company?s internal communications platform. ?I?ve taken some [paid time off] to refocus, but I can?t shake the feeling that the company leadership has betrayed the trust my colleagues and I have placed in them.?

Messages like those from Wang and Abramov illustrate how Facebook?s handling of the president?s often divisive posts has caused a sea change in its ranks and led to a crisis of confidence in leadership, according to interviews with current and former employees and dozens of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The documents ? which include company discussion threads, employee survey results, and recordings of Zuckerberg ? reveal that the company was slow to take down ads with white nationalist and Nazi content reported by its own employees. They demonstrate how the company?s public declarations about supporting racial justice causes are at odds with policies forbidding Facebookers from using company resources to support political matters. They show Zuckerberg being publicly accused of misleading his employees. Above all, they portray a fracturing company culture.

The examples in the Buzzfeed article may not be representative of how all employees feel, nor is it necessarily indicative that Facebook will definitely change its policies one way or the other. It’s just highlighting that pressure to be better, to be responsible, and to build better products comes from all over — and in Silicon Valley many employees came up with the belief (cynical or not) that they’re here to change the world for the better. And when they realize they may not be doing that, many will speak out and push back.

And that is likely to have an impact over time: especially when the big tech companies are fighting over top talent, and desperately trying to hire the best engineers possible. If those engineers speak up and speak out, it can create very strong incentives for companies to change and to improve — all without needing to take an axe to Section 230, which has little to nothing to do with all of this.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: facebook

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Facebook Employee Revolt Shows, Yet Again, That There Are Other Incentives Beyond Section 230”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
hij (profile) says:

Employees should be seen not heard

This cycle has been seen in a number of other industries. Management just reduce’s the workforce’s options while finding a way to extract their labour. It is even easier with this industry given the ability to use the work from people in other countries where there are fewer protections.

Dang, I am turning into such a pessimist. 2020 is really getting to me.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

i most definitely believe Twitter removing Klan propaganda is a bad thing.

let all voices be heard and if there’s bad ideas, counter them with better ideas.

censoring speech doesn’t make the bad ideas go away, but rather places it underground to fester and grow without any push back, which leads to more and more extremism.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Do you believe the law should force you to host all legally protected speech on a service you own and operate, even if you don’t want to host…oh, let’s say, furry porn?

As an advocate for furry awareness I am completely okay with this.

Furries and their supporters will shout down anyone who criticizes us for our choices and emotions like we always have.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

I am completely okay with this.

I want to be clear about what you believe so we’re all on the same page: If the government made a law that says “you must host Klan propaganda, anti-queer speech, and really fucked up fetish porn on your social media service, even if you don’t want to host any of that kind of content”, and a refusal to host even one instance of the N-word could result in the government hauling someone into court, seizing their assets, and even shutting down their service…you would have no problem whatsoever with that, even if it were done to you?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

Then we call them bigots until they leave.

That won’t stop bigots. It has never stopped bigots, who revel in their bigotry and delight in the pain it causes. If anything, the refusal — or legal inability — to moderate content such as racial slurs will only lead to the targets of those slurs leaving the service. Any refusal to quash the voices of the bigots in the interests of creating a far more inclusive community will imply that the service condones their bigotry. The bigots will then continue to overrun the service until everyone else leaves for a different service.

The paradox of tolerance applies here: If we tolerate everything, including intolerance, we allow that intolerance to take over. In that sense, tolerance is not an absolute moral precept — it is a metaphorical peace treaty. Anyone who would violate that treaty (e.g., bigots looking to disrupt an established online community) should face the proper punishment (expulsion) for their bullshit. I can think of no reason, other than free speech absolutism, for believing bigots deserve a place in any online community that they didn’t make for themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

You misunderstand.

The idea is not to give them a place. The idea is to shame them for taking it. They’re more than welcome to step into the place given to them with a pit of spikes waiting for them to fall into.

And once enough sexual minorities and furries and scat practitioners and vore fetishists attack them enough they’ll leave of their own accord. Letting them in is to expose them as the virgin normie bigots they are. They’ve had it too good for too long. If they refuse to leave we’ll just shame them the same way furries were shamed.

Love wins. And they will lose.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

"The idea is to shame them for taking it"

What makes you think they feel shame? I’m sure the average Nazi/homophobe/whatever would actually relish the chance to have an unrestricted pool of victims, no matter what comes back at them.

"And once enough sexual minorities and furries and scat practitioners and vore fetishists attack them enough they’ll leave of their own accord."

Unless they’re into that sort of thing, in which case it’s the 95% of other users who don’t fit into those categories who will scatter. Nobody wants to see the place they talk to their friends get overrun by a fight between furries and Nazis, and that’s even if you take into account that Nazi furries are thing that exists.

"Love wins. And they will lose."

Eventually, maybe. But that takes a long time, and I’m sure the people being abused by the people you’re forcing a platform to remain hosted there will leave before your dream comes true. Then, the same thing happens all over again on the new platform the normal people have gone to while you were waiting.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

The idea is not to give them a place. The idea is to shame them for taking it.

Two things.

  1. Most bigots don’t feel shame — especially if they’re able to speak their bigotry without their name attached.
  2. If you say you don’t give them a place, but you let them stay so you can shame them for taking a place, you’ve still given them a place.

once enough sexual minorities and furries and scat practitioners and vore fetishists attack them enough they’ll leave of their own accord

If that doesn’t work on Twitter, why the blue blazing fuck would it ever work on a social media service you own and operate?

Letting them in is to expose them as the virgin normie bigots they are.

“Please, by all means, step into our home and yell all kinds of slurs and insults at us so we can point at you and call you ‘bigot’! That’ll surely make you think twice before we open the door and give you a place in our home again!” — That’s you. That’s you right now.

On a long enough timeline, the bigots will expose themselves. They don’t need people like you helping them with that — especially if that means you’re going to willingly expose people to that bigotry out of some misguided sense of “love”.

They’ve had it too good for too long.

And under the philosophy expressed in your posts, they’ll have it even better. Why? Because instead of fighting to stay on your service because of their bigotry, you’ll be asking them to stay as long as they like and all but begging them to be as bigoted and offensive as possible.

If they refuse to leave we’ll just shame them the same way furries were shamed.

Just so you know, the furry fandom has a lot of queer people in it. It is one of the most queer-friendly communities on the Internet as a result. But the fandom was shamed and mocked and turned into a collective Internet pariah for years partly because of that queerness. So saying you want to revisit that shaming by applying it to the same bigots who would be doing that shaming (and enjoying it) is…odd, at best.

Love wins. And they will lose.

As an old saying goes: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” You’re suggesting that good men openly welcome evil, embrace that evil like a brother, and let everyone else deal with the evil while the good men go to the store for some cigarettes.

Your philosophy undercuts your statement because your philosophy isn’t borne from love — it’s borne from a selfish disregard of others meant to express your version of free speech absolutism. You don’t care who gets harassed off your service, who gets driven to self-harm because of your actions, who suffers because you believe the speech of bigots is more valuable than the speech of those whom bigots target. You care more about catering to the worst of humanity out of deeply ignorant beliefs about “free speech” and “tolerance” with which virtually no one else here agrees.

“Love wins” won’t work as long as you have the power to make sure it doesn’t. If you’re not willing to love a community enough to keep bigots and spammers and other such bullshit out of it, you’re actively working against the idea of love. When you become willing to welcome hate and unwilling to expel it, you have become the very thing you say should be shamed out of a community — and with the same lack of shame as the bigots you embrace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

The LGBT community had their Stonewall riots. We teamed up with miners in the UK to protest. I personally shamed Christians out of my sight by calling them "Trumptards" and nobody supported them. Why would they? If you’re not a bigot, you’ll stand by us. You’ll help us rid the world of disgusting white male privilege by any means necessary.

I’m not embracing that evil. I’m letting them come in so we can nuke them from orbit. We did it in 2015 and gays can finally marry. We’ll do it again.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9

Good people generally don’t voluntarily let in bigots, tell the bigots to make themselves at home, and look away when the bigots shit all over the floor. When you all but invite the evil in and act as if you can’t stop it, you’re refusing to resist evil — which means you’ve embraced it by default. You can use that feel-good language about queer people all you want¹, but those words won’t — can’t — hide a lack of both principles and the courage needed to back them up.

¹ — I’m fairly certain you’re trolling now, given how all that talk about “white privilege” and “gays” sounds like a stereotype of people whom conservatives accuse of “virtue signaling”. You might want to tone that shit down if you want to pass for a “liberal”, fam.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"let all voices be heard and if there’s bad ideas, counter them with better ideas."

…and when they don’t get countered? What happens when all the normal people start getting tired of correcting idiots all the time and just block them? Do you want the same kind of echo chamber like the one on 8chan that actively encouraged real like mass shootings? Because that’s how you get echo chambers that encourage mass shootings…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Supporters

Yes, and he apparently can’t understand why a reputable news source retweeting an article on a vaguely similar subject was not treated the same as him pushing the thoughts of someone who thinks that vaccines contain alien DNA over the policies of his own disease expert. 150k dead and climbing, but he needs to pretend the person who believes in lizard people is the real fountain of knowledge…

ECA (profile) says:

Still think

That those that wish to Politicalize their speech, can Sit in the corner and have Anyone that thinks the same, Goto that person and Post on their page.

But its back to the other idea…CREATE your own site and BS everyone that you want.
But, Beware…FREE speech, is Free, and can be abusive. Which I think they found out on 1 site(so far).

But in all of this, its NOT what you say, but How you say and represent it. Ask any lawyer, you cant walk in and say, he’s not guilty and walk out. Even a 6th grader can do better, if you ask them to explain..

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What i find viscerally disturbing is that in a time when everyone who wants a megaphone and a soapbox to stand on has those, some humans still feel inclined to insist that parking that soapbox in someone else’s living room and fling feces over the assembled crowd must be their entitled right.

Humans are humans, but some humans are having a hell of a struggle letting go of their inner monkey.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Both things still exist. AOL faded quickly because they were a restricted dialup service that couldn’t compete against unrestricted broadband. MySpace faded because they were an annoying and messy service to use and Facebook offered an easier, cleaner method of communicating. But, those things still have active users, believe it or not.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I know it’s not likely, at least not without a replacement, which may be even worse"

Bingo. The reason why MySpace faded was because it was only popular as it was the best people had at the time, and as soon as Facebook offered a much better platform the users migrated. They aren’t going to disappear because some people hate a small portion of what they do, they will continue as long as they remain the best fit for certain types of activity. At which point, people will use whatever has replaced them as the best option for their needs. Which doesn’t mean that the alternative will not do the things you don’t like.

restless94110 (profile) says:


There should be powerful and often-used incentives to fire any employee who -attempts to enact policy based on their anti-American values of censorship and PC speech. These employees are extremely detrimental to any business and to any society.

The "other" incentives of these vermin should be crushed: they should never work in any place that can affect American freedoms ever again. That is the only "other" incentive that should result from this type of mob rule evil.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...