Facebook’s executives were accused of being ‘drunk on power’ in internal messages after they attempted to block messages of support for Kenosha gunman Kyle Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse, a right-wing vigilante, shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters amid unrest following the shooting by police of Jacob Blake, in August 2020.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, was seen as a hero by some on the right, who insisted he was on the streets to prevent rioting by the BLM activists.
Facebook took down many pro-Rittenhouse posts, arguing that they were in violation of the site’s rules which banned the promotion of violence.
Facebook’s rules ban praise and support of a mass shooter, or a mass shooting itself.
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, was 17 when he shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020. He was part of a vigilante group claiming they were defending property from arson and rioting
A protester is seen walking past a burning building on August 24, after the shooting of Jacob Blake
A protester tosses an object toward police during clashes outside the Kenosha County Courthouse on August 25, 2020 – the third night of rioting, and the night of Rittenhouse’s shooting
Rittenhouse has been charged with murder. He is seen on Monday, ahead of his trial, which begins next week
During an internal discussion, most employees agreed with the decision.
But one said that the Facebook leaders were taking too drastic a role in censoring people’s beliefs.
‘The rioting has been going on for over three months and it’s only an issue now because people inside the company saw violence they didn’t like,’ the staffer said, in internal documents obtained by The New York Post.
‘Employees are drunk on the absolute power of being in control of civics in America, without ever having to visit a voting booth (if voting is even an option).’
Facebook took down posts in support of Rittenhouse, as per their policy on shootings
The employee, a data scientist with Facebook, questioned whether Facebook was taking the right approach to moderating posts in support of Rittenhouse – who was 17 at the time of the shooting, and not legally allowed to carry the firearms used in the shooting.
‘Can we really consistently and objectively differentiate between support (not allowed) and discussion of whether [Rittenhouse] is being treated justly (allowed)?’ the data scientist wrote.
‘Try reading the posts mentioning him and see if you can separate violating from non-violating content.
‘I know that our company is full of dedicated smart people who want to do the right thing.
‘However, I don’t think the current system we are working in enables us to succeed, even as we have the money, talent and motivation that should lead us on the right path.’
Rittenhouse has been charged with murder, and his trial is scheduled to begin next week.
A spokeswoman said Facebook has an ‘industry-leading policy’ to address what it called ‘militarized social movements.’
The internal memo is part of a huge swathe of information leaked by a whistleblower, Frances Haugen.
Details of Facebook’s internal discussions come from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who has appeared before lawmakers in the U.S. and U.K. during recent weeks
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder and CEO, is under intense pressure following the leak of a series of internal documents
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook, on Monday angrily accused people of plotting against his company.
‘My view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,’ the under-fire executive said, in a call with Facebook investors.
Haugen’s leaked files have formed the basis of a series of exposes in The Wall Street Journal, revealing that executives knew Instagram was addictive and harmful to young people, and that they put profits above people.
Facebook has been accused of not doing enough to clamp down on hate speech, and actively promoting divisive and harmful content to drive traffic.