On the same day that President Trump unloaded on the political bias problem among major tech communities, including Google, The New York Times published a memo penned by Facebook senior engineer Brian Amerige laying out the company’s “problem with political diversity” and calling for a movement within the company to promote more tolerance of people with political views other than just the leftist views he says are currently enforced by employees. Since he posted his memo last week, dozens of fellow employees have joined his movement.
In the memo, titled “We Have a Problem with Political Diversity” and posted on one of the company’s internal message boards on August 20, Amerige paints a troubling picture of the lack of political tolerance among his fellow Facebook employees, whom he says often personally attack anyone who presents a non-left-leaning ideology and show open disdain for Trump supporters. He says he has been told by the company’s human resources office that the complaint he’s raising is “not a rare concern.”
Amerige begins the memo by laying out “the problem”:
We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views. 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. 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. HR has told me that this is not a rare concern, and I’ve personally gotten over a hundred messages to that effect. Your colleagues are afraid because they know that they — not their ideas — will be attacked. They know that all the talk of “openness to different perspectives” does not apply to causes of “social justice,” immigration, “diversity”, and “equality.” On this issues, you can either keep quiet or sacrifice your reputation and career.
These are not fears without cause. Because we tear down posters welcoming Trump supporters. We regularly propose removing 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. We have made “All Lives Matter” a fireable offense. We put Palmer Luckey through a witch hunt because he paid for anti-Hillary ads. We write each other ad-hoc feedback in the PSC tool for having “offensive” ideas. 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.
The engineer then explains “why this matters,” which he underscores relates not only to the company’s responsibility to serve the public but also to its viability.
This is not okay. Not just for our internal culture, but for our own viability as a company. 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. 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. We are blind to and dismissive of what people beyond our walls (let alone even within our walls) think about complex issues that matter. I’ve been here for nearly 6.5 years and this has gotten exponentially worse in the last 2.
He then calls on his fellow employees to join him in a new group, “FB’ers for Political Diversity”:
I don’t know how to fix this problem on my own. What I do know is that these issues can’t be fixed if we continue to be isolated and silent. So that’s what this group is for: (a) to be a space where you can talk about these issues without fear of the mob, and in the process (b) to talk about how we can fix this.
If you’re interested in helping make Facebook a company that’s more tolerant and active-minded about different political and ideological perspectives, join FB’ers for Political Diversity.
There’s only going to be one core rule in the group, and it’s that if you attack a person’s character, rather than their ideas, you will be banned. Let’s see where this goes.
The Times reports that since he first posted the memo, the group has been joined by more than 100 Facebook employees, which is still a tiny percentage of the company’s over 25,000 employees. As if to prove Amerige’s point, some Facebook employees have filed complaints about the creation of the new group, characterizing it as offensive to minorities. Liberal outlets, like Gizmodo, are predictably mocking the movement, as they did James Damore’s “entirely unnecessary and ultimately unproductive” complaints about Google that got him fired.