More than 100 Facebook employees complained in August that those who did not espouse left-leaning views were often attacked by their peers. Now reports are confirming that Palmer Luckey, the co-founder of Oculus who departed from Facebook in 2017, was likely fired for supporting President Trump.
The news comes at a time when two important Facebook audits are set to wrap up, including one that investigates the company’s alleged anti-conservative bias. Although CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he is committed to improving his company’s transparency, it is unclear whether or not the public will ever see the results of these audits.
Facebook has a moral responsibility to its customers to release the results.
In just a year’s time, the conversation about political bias at tech companies has changed dramatically. When the company I co-founded, Lincoln Network, launched its 2017 Viewpoint Inclusion Survey to collect data on potential anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley, the tech industry told us it would be a waste of time. They told us not to pursue the survey because political bias does not exist at Facebook, Twitter and Google. We were the troublemakers, stirring the pot that the tech giants didn’t want us to touch.
The survey confirmed our suspicions that some viewpoints aren’t welcome in Silicon Valley. For survey respondents who identified as “very conservative,” 90 percent reported feeling uncomfortable sharing their personal views and just being themselves at work
The survey confirmed our suspicions that some viewpoints aren’t welcome in Silicon Valley. For survey respondents who identified as “very conservative,” 90 percent reported feeling uncomfortable sharing their personal views and just being themselves at work.
And now, the conversation around political bias in the tech industry sounds very different. After Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill in April, responding to privacy concerns and a host of other criticisms from senators, the tech industry is taking the issue of political biases in the workplace more seriously.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, recently acknowledged that conservative employees at his company don’t feel safe to express their opinions, and it’s not “fair or right.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai issued a company-wide memo in September that reminded employees to remain nonpartisan while fighting off critics who claim Google’s search results favor liberal views.
Zuckerberg hired Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., (who at the time of his hiring was retired from the Senate) and his team at a law firm in Washington to investigate these allegations. Kyl’s team asked Lincoln Network for our survey data on viewpoint discrimination, since we were the only ones who had any real evidence that political biases make workplace culture in the tech industry problematic for conservatives.
They found our data useful and incorporated our findings into their audit. The audit results should be submitted to Facebook this month, but it’s likely Facebook will not make the information available to the public.
Zuckerberg pursued a second audit, pushed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to investigate whether landlords can use Facebook to block black or Hispanic users from seeing certain housing ads. Facebook hired another Washington-based law firm, Relman, Dane & Colfax, to perform the audit and uncover this potential discrimination. This audit is also scheduled to finish this month, yet there has been no indication from Facebook that the findings will be made public.
This overarching secretiveness certainly does not bode well for Facebook’s purported commitment to transparency. Withholding the results of the anti-conservative bias audit would be a decision of comical irony that would only stoke the flames of suspicion. It would be even more alarming if Facebook only releases the results of the housing ad audit.
We strongly encourage Facebook to release the findings of both audits. This is the only outcome that will demonstrate a commitment to maintaining transparency and fighting viewpoint intolerance in the workplace.
Zuckerberg and Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, both said at a recent town hall that it is important for Facebook to be “a place where diverse points of view are not only tolerated but supported.” This is an encouraging statement that Facebook leadership will hopefully back up with concrete action.