An anonymous forum dedicated to employees of Facebook was shut down late last year after racist and sexist messages and comments started appearing. In the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, the forum was dominated by the then presidential candidate and now president, Donald Trump.
The forum was started a little over two years ago and initially server as a chat room where Facebook employees could engage anonymously. There were hundreds of members on the forum and the content that was generated regularly became a top of discussion even among employees of Facebook who were non-members. Through the forum Facebook employees got a chance to express their concerns and also complain regarding policies at the social media firm. Light topics were also discussed.
Over the election campaign period, there was heavy discussion regarding Trump as well as other presidential candidates. Allegedly forum members even put up posters all over Facebook’s campus prior to the election in which they indicated that supporters of Trump were welcome to the forum. During that period right-leaning employees of the Palo Alto, California-based social media giant converged on the forum. At the time the feeling inside the organization was that Facebook was left-leaning. Some employees confessed that the social media giant’s management assumed there weren’t many members of staff who were leaning towards Trump.
Less than a month after the election ended, the forum was shut down by Facebook. When the chief executive officer of the social media platform, Mark Zuckerberg, was asked why the forum had been shut down during a ‘town hall’ meeting at the company, he said that harassment had surfaced on the forum and asserted that such behavior couldn’t be tolerated. According to Facebook’s head of people, Lori Goler, the forum violated company policy.
“The FB Anon internal Facebook group violated our Terms of Service, which require people who use Facebook (including our employees) to use an authentic identity on our platform,” said Goler in a statement.
The revelation regarding the shutting down of the Facebook forum comes at a time when technology firms in the United States are grappling with the issue of protecting the free speech rights of their employees while guarding against hate speech. A case in point is Google which earlier in the month fired James Damore, a software engineer, after he wrote an internal memo that was ten pages long that sought to blame biological differences on why women are underrepresented in the technology sector.