Facebook announces curbs on internal debate of political issues

Marco Green
September 21, 2020

The staff and public alike have also criticized the company for allowing hate, propaganda and misinformation to remain on Facebook.

The changes - which include creating a tougher harassment policy, dictating which areas of the Workplace platform can be used to discuss politics or social issues, and moderating debates when they do occur - are meant to help address "a lot of very tense conversations happening out in the world", a company spokesperson told CNBC.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Zuckerberg said staff shouldn't have to talk about polarizing political and social issues during work time.

The changes include creating a tougher harassment policy, dictating which areas of the Workplace platform can be used to discuss politics or social issues, and moderating debates when they do occur.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined the policy adjustments at a company meeting in response to tense conversations related to the coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming presidential election and nationwide protests against systemic racism, a company spokesperson said.

The apparent inability of Facebook to handle criticism from its staff on social and political issues is, to put it lightly, not a good omen of its ability to handle its role as a mass conduit for discussion of social and political issues in the USA and around the world.

But as staffers have become increasingly vocal about their disagreements with Zuckerberg, statements posted on Workplace have leaked to the press and become a headache for the company.

Some called out Zuckerberg's as hypocritical, since he claims to stand for "voice and free expression". Conversations will now be moderated, and some staff will be asked to go through moderation training. On Monday, BuzzFeed published details of an internal whistleblower memo written by a former data scientist alleging Facebook ignored organised campaigns to manipulate elections outside the USA and Europe when they weren't the subject of press attention; that memo was posted to Workplace.

Google LLC is also reportedly cracking down on internal discussions on messaging boards after months of heated debates about various social issues.

Osborne said the new rules would apply to employee discussions of how executives handle politically sensitive content on Facebook's platforms, which was the subject of intense internal debates this summer.

A spokesman who confirmed the update to Facebook's policies said: "We deeply value expression and open discussion". Spokesman Joe Osborne stated, "What we've heard from our employees is that they want the option to join debates on social and political issues rather than see them unexpectedly in their work feed".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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