The following memo was written and circulated by former Facebook executive Mark S. Luckie to all of Facebook’s employees around the world shortly before his final day at the company. It was also published on LinkedIn on November 27, 2018
Facebook has a black people problem.
One of the platform’s most engaged demographics and an unmatched cultural trendsetter is having their community divided by the actions and inaction of the company. This loss is a direct reflection of the staffing and treatment of many of its black employees.
In my role as Strategic Partner Manager for Global Influencers focused on Underrepresented Voices, I’ve been uniquely exposed to the issues surrounding the internal and external representation of black people here. Through formal meetings, backchannel conversations, and casual chats over coffee, some common themes have emerged:
Black people are one of the most engaged demographics on Facebook…
Black people are far outpacing other groups on the platform in a slew of engagement metrics. African Americans are more likely to use Facebook to communicate with family and friends daily, according to research commissioned by Facebook. 63% use Facebook to communicate with family, and 60% use Facebook to communicate with friends at least once a day, compared to 53% and 54% of the total population, respectively. 70% of black U.S. adults use Facebook and 43% use Instagram, according to the Pew Research Center. 55% of black millennials report spending at least one hour a day on social networking sites, 6% higher than all millennials, while 29% say they spend at least three hours a day, 9% higher than all millennials, Nielsen surveys found. Black people are driving the kind of meaningful social interactions Facebook is striving to facilitate.
…but their experiences are sometimes far from positive.
Black people are finding that their attempts to create “safe spaces” on Facebook for conversation among themselves are being derailed by the platform itself. Non-black people are reporting what are meant to be positive efforts as hate speech, despite them often not violating Facebook’s terms of service. Their content is removed without notice. Accounts are suspended indefinitely.
When these rulings are upheld with little recourse, it upends the communities of color Facebook claims to be supporting. It decreases the likelihood that people will continue to engage at the same level on our platform. Even high-profile figures who are plagued with these issues sometimes have to wait until it’s a major press story for it to be addressed.
There is a prevailing theory among many black users that their content is more likely to be taken down on the platform than any other group. Even though the theories are mostly anecdotal, Facebook does little to dissuade people from this idea. Black people continue to use the platform because for many it is still their best way to connect directly with the causes they care about. Our communities should be able to trust that we have their best interests at heart.
Read the rest of Mark S. Luckie’s full LinkedIn post here.