FB engineer quits company for its failure to contain ‘hate speech’

Ashok Chandwaney, who is of Indian origin, wrote a 1,300-word letter to the company to explain reasons for his leaving the company

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump's posts, saying people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Photo: iStock

A Facebook software engineer of Indian origin has quit the world’s largest social media accusing it of becoming “a haven for hate”.

Ashok Chandwaney posted a 1300-word letter on Facebook’s internal employee network on Tuesday (September 8): “I’m quitting because I can no longer stomach contributing to an organization that is profiting off hate in the US and globally.” The letter had all the details, bristling with links to bolster its claims and scathing in its conclusions.

Tuesday’s resignation made Chandwaney the latest Facebook employee to quit amid rising discontent within a company that, just a few years ago, was seen as an ideal employer.

Worker frustration with Facebook’s policies on hate and racist speech has risen as protests against racial injustice have swept the country. A large number of employees have demanded that Zuckerberg, who controls a majority stake in Facebook, should change his stance on a variety of contentious issues.

The 28-year-old engineer of Indian origin, Chandwaney, gave an interview to The Washington Post, describing Facebook as a genial, supportive workplace but said they realized over time that the company’s leadership was focused on profits over promoting social good.

Chandwaney sounded especially miffed at the company failure to check the rise on the platform of racism, disinformation and incitements to violence, giving examples of the company’s role in fueling genocide in Myanmar and violence in Kenosha.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Chandwaney gave an example of Facebook’s refusal to remove President Donald Trump’s post from May saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. After Zuckerberg declined to take down Trump’s “looting shooting” post, some employees, who are working from home, staged a virtual walkout.

NDTV reported that in the wake of the George Floyd protests, members of Facebook’s Black employee resource group, Black@, met with Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to complain about the company’s inaction on Trump’s May post, while a Black employee has brought a lawsuit charging racial bias in its hiring practices.

“We don’t benefit from hate,” Facebook spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois said in response. “We invest billions of dollars each year to keep 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 go after QAnon, grew our fact-checking program, and removed millions of posts tied to hate organizations – over 96% of which we found before anyone reported them to us.”

Chandwaney also criticized the company’s policy that allows politicians to make false claims in campaign ads without fear of having them fact-checked.

India too has been in the middle of simmering discontent among users about Facebook’s refusal to contain hate speeches by politicians. MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the parliamentary panel on IT, recently summoned Facebook to depose before the panel on complaints against the social media company for promoting hate speech against particular religion or faith.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on August 14 that said Facebook India had turned a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP leader and three others to avoid damaging the social media platform’s business prospects in its biggest market.

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