A Facebook engineer has quit the firm, saying they “can not stomach” being a part of an organisation “profiting off hate”.
Ashok Chandwaney is the latest employee to travel public with concerns about how corporate deals with hate speech.
The engineer added it had been “choosing to get on the incorrect side of history”.
Facebook responded by saying it had removed many hate-related posts. Another of its ex-engineers has also come to its defence.
The thrust of the post by Ashok Chandwaney – who uses “they” and “them” as personal pronouns – is that Facebook moves quickly to solve certain problems, but when it comes to handling hate speech, it’s more curious about PR than implementing real change.
Their five and a half years tenure at the firm meant “learning about a bug in a meeting, and fixing it before the meeting is over”, they write.
“To me being bold means seeing something that’s hard to try to but, knowing it is the right thing to try to, rolling up my sleeves and diving in.”
White nationalism and therefore the use of the platform by far-right militias were among the items they felt Facebook needed to try to move on, also as regulating other political content.
“Every day ‘the looting starts, the shooting starts’ stays up maybe a day that we elect to minimise regulatory risk at the expense of the security of black, indigenous and people of colour.”
Facebook’s refusal to get rid of that comment, posted by President Trump during the Black Lives Matter protests, was in contrast to Twitter, which labelled it as glorifying violence.
The stance led several employees to go away, with others staging walk-outs. And advertisers boycotted the platform for the month of July, over its attitude to hate speech.
Facebook skilled the engineer’s post, saying: “We don’t take advantage of hate. We invest billions of dollars annually to stay our community safe and are in deep partnership with outside experts to review and update our policies.
“This summer we launched an industry-leading policy to travel after QAnon, grew our fact-checking program, and removed many posts tied to hate organisations, over 96% of which we found before anyone reported them to us.”
QAnon may be a conspiracy theory that believes US President Trump is waging a secret war against a “deep state” network of paedophiles, a number of whom are powerful government, business and media figures.
Some employees were willing to defend the social network.
Stepan Parunashvili – who worked as a software engineer at Facebook for four years up to 2019 but has since co-founded his own business – told the BBC that the social network needed time to think through the issues involved.
“Changing the definition of ‘hate’, even with excellent intentions, is dangerous and riddled with tail risks,” he explained,
“In my opinion, Facebook is conscious of that and is treating this very seriously.
“They aren’t ‘moving fast’ on changing the definition of free speech, which may be a great point .”
Facebook employs thousands of engineers, and that they are among the foremost highly-paid employees at the tech firm.
Regulators and policy-makers around the world are concerned about the expansion of hate speech, not just on Facebook but on all social media platforms, with many countries launching enquiries into how the tech firms are handling the difficulty.