Last year, Google senior software engineer James Damore was fired after circulating a memo attacking Google’s “ideological echo chamber.” This month, Facebook’s own version of James Damore stepped forward, and he hasn’t been fired just yet.
“We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views,” Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, wrote in a post entitled “We Have a Problem with Political Diversity.” The New York Times first obtained and reported on the post.
“We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology,” Amerige charged. “We throw labels that end in *obe and *ist at each other, attacking each other’s character rather than their ideas.”
“We do this so consistently that employees are afraid to say anything when they disagree with what’s around them politically,” the engineer explained. “HR has told me that this is not a rare concern, and I’ve personally gotten over a hundred messages to that effect.” On political issues like “‘social justice,’ immigration, ‘diversity’, and ‘equality,'” Amerige warned, employees “can either keep quiet or sacrifice your reputation and career.”
The engineer also noted events that demonstrated these fears are justified. “We tear down posters welcoming Trump supporters,” he admitted. “We regularly propose removing [Peter] Thiel from our board because he supported Trump. We’re quick to suggest firing people who turn out to be misunderstood, and even quicker to conclude our colleagues are bigots.”
Amerige warned that Facebook has “made ‘All Lives Matter’ a fireable offense.” He noted the “witch hunt” against Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, who was pressured to leave Facebook when news spread he had donated to an organization that spread memes against Hillary Clinton online. “We ask HR to investigate those who dare to criticize Islam’s human rights record for creating a ‘non inclusive environment.’ And they called me a transphobe when I called out our corporate art for being politically radical,” Amerige noted.
The engineer’s memo confirmed the results of a previous survey that found that conservative employees in Silicon Valley tech companies live in fear that their political beliefs will be found out. Earlier this year, James Damore said conservatives at Google are “in the closet” and that Google executives are digging through a secret mailing list in order to out them.
Amerige warned that this “political monoculture” at Facebook has wide societal implications. “While the problem isn’t unique to us, we are entrusted by a great part of the world to be impartial and transparent carriers of people’s stories, ideas, and commentary,” Amerige wrote. “Congress doesn’t think we can do this. The President doesn’t think we can do this. And like them or not, we deserve that criticism.”
The engineer said he has worked at Facebook for 6.5 years, and “this has gotten exponentially worse in the last 2.”
Amerige created an internal chat group called “FBers for Political Diversity,” and two employees told The New York Times that at least 100 Facebook employees have joined the group, as of Tuesday.
The New York Times reporters, Kate Conger and Sheera Frenkel, presented the story as one half of a debate within the social media giant.
“Within Facebook, several employees said, people have argued over the decisions to ban certain accounts while allowing others,” Conger and Frenkel reported. “At staff meetings, they said, some workers have repeatedly asked for more guidance on what content the company disallows, and why. Others have said Facebook, out of fear of being seen as biased, has let too many right-wing groups flourish on the site.”
Perhaps liberal Facebook employees fear too many conservative groups exist on the site due to the influence of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left activist group that labels mainstream conservative and Christian groups “hate groups,” listing them along with the Ku Klux Klan.
Various tech companies have used the “hate group” list to exclude conservative groups. Amazon.com has excluded D. James Kennedy Ministries and Alliance Defending Freedom from their charity arm, Amazon Smile, due to the SPLC list. D. James Kennedy Ministries is suing Amazon and the SPLC in response. The SPLC-designated “hate group” Jihad Watch and its founder Robert Spencer were de-platformed by Patreon, and then the crowdfunding site GoFundMe effectively stole thousands from Spencer.
Last week, Facebook took down posts sharing mainstream conservative articles from authors Salena Zito and Jenna Lynn Ellis, saying they “look like spam.” Facebook has repeatedly suspended Christian scholar Robert Gagnon for “hate speech,” and it suspended a German history professor in April for saying that Islam is not a part of German history.
Facebook also “shadow banned” the conservative video nonprofit Prager University, preventing at least nine PragerU posts from reaching any of their 3 million followers, and deleting PragerU’s videos. Google first attacked PragerU by restricting access its videos. PragerU sued Google and YouTube for discrimination and censorship, but YouTube continues to restrict access to the videos.
A cybersecurity lawyer told PJ Media that Facebook’s algorithm, which the social media company consistently blames for the blocking of posts, will likely be revealed, either through leaks, lawsuits, or government regulation.
Amerige is correct: Facebook has a duty to prove it is truly an open social media platform, and it should show Congress and President Donald Trump that it can avoid becoming a weapon of political censorship. Let’s just hope Facebook doesn’t fire him the way Google fired James Damore.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.