Facebook 'has a black people problem,' fails black workers, ex-manager says

A former employee publishes a memo saying it's "a pattern of behavior deeply connected to the culture" at the social network.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
3 min read

Mark Luckie presents at the 2018 GLAAD Gala San Francisco in September.

Trisha Leeper/Getty Images

Facebook is under fire for alleged discrimination.

On Tuesday, a former manager at the company shared a memo he sent earlier this month to all of Facebook's employees, detailing the social network's "black people problem."

Shortly after sending the memo, on Nov. 8, Mark Luckie left his job at Facebook as a strategic partner manager for global influencers focused on underrepresented voices. In the memo, Luckie said that though blacks are more likely to use Facebook to communicate with families and friends daily, their efforts to create "safe spaces" on the platform are reported as hate speech, which results in the content being removed without notice and in some participants' accounts being suspended indefinitely.

Luckie also alleged that minority groups are excluded from communication, and that this is reflected in resource allocation, the industry events Facebook sponsors, its guest lists for external programs, and more. Luckie said Facebook's black employees are called "hostile" or "aggressive" by non-black team members for "simply sharing their thoughts in a manner not dissimilar" from how the non-black employees present their thoughts. 

The human resources department is "often a dead end," Luckie said. When black employees go to HR with issues, he said, the department makes the employees think that "disheartening patterns are a figment of our imagination" and tends to protect the manager, not the employee. It's only when black employees talk to other black employees that they "come to accept that it's a pattern of behavior deeply connected to the culture at Facebook," Luckie said.

Luckie previously worked as manager of media at Twitter and Reddit, according to his LinkedIn profile. Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison confirmed in an email that Luckie worked at Facebook from October 2017 to this November. 

"Over the last few years, we've been working diligently to increase the range of perspectives among those who build our products and serve the people who use them throughout the world," Harrison said in the email. "We want to fully support all employees when there are issues reported and when there may be micro-behaviors that add up. We are going to keep doing all we can to be a truly inclusive company."

This isn't the first time Facebook has been accused of discriminatory behavior. In August, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a formal complaint against Facebook for letting landlords and home sellers engage in housing discrimination. HUD said the social network let advertisers choose who viewed their ads based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability and ZIP code. Facebook said it would "continue working directly with HUD to address their concerns."

In September, the American Civil Liberties Union filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and 10 employers for allegedly targeting job ads on the platform to men only, excluding women and nonbinary users from seeing the ads. Facebook said at the time that it was reviewing the complaint and looked forward to defending its practices.

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