There have been divisions within Facebook’s ranks for months, with many employees publicly protesting some of the company’s policies.
The spotlight on Facebook policies only grows more intense as the 2020 U.S. election nears. Groups are jockeying for influence to force the company to get a better handle on how bad actors use the service to spread disinformation, whether it’s around COVID-19, elections, social justice or other hot-button topics.
In July, civil rights groups organized a boycott, dubbed Stop Hate for Profit, which drew support from more than 1,000 brands that pulled ads from the social network for a month.
The pressure campaign continued past July, though, with many of the same civil rights groups establishing new programs to counter Facebook’s influence. Just last week, a group spun off from Stop Hate for Profit’s movement, called The Real Facebook Oversight Board, formed to mount a sustained public relations offensive. The group intends to publicize examples of misinformation and media manipulation.
Facebook under CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been firm in its own path, however, seeing itself as charting a middle course between competing U.S. political interests.
Before the civil unrest kicked off this summer, the company had launched a major marketing push to showcase all the ways the service helps small businesses during the pandemic. Facebook and Instagram created new shopping and e-commerce tools for businesses to keep operating during the shutdown.
Facebook also promoted its ability to connect its 3.1 billion monthly active users across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger at a time when people were more isolated.
Schultz will have his work cut out for him marketing the positive aspects of the social network while dealing with its many detractors.
“I believe deeply in the good Facebook’s products do,” Schultz said in his post on Tuesday. “We have all seen it through this pandemic as billions of people have connected with family and friends socially online while staying physically apart and slowing the spread of the virus. At the same time I think scrutiny of any new technology is appropriate and there are ways we can, and should, improve without losing all the good.”
Schultz also referred to his experience as an “openly gay” person in tech over the past 15 years, crediting the company with creating an environment where he feels safe.
“The bar, of course, keeps raising on this but the difference from [15years ago], when I started out, to today is truly remarkable,” Schultz said. “I’m the exec sponsor of Facebook’s [email protected] resource group and will continue supporting them.”
Sept 29, 4:20 p.m. EDT: Story updated with the addition of paragraphs 6 to 16.