Facebook's Black Lives Matter Debate: How Contentious a Cross-Out?

By Schouten, Lucy | The Christian Science Monitor, February 26, 2016 | Go to article overview

Facebook's Black Lives Matter Debate: How Contentious a Cross-Out?


Schouten, Lucy, The Christian Science Monitor


Recent whiteboard battles on Facebook's employee signature wall have centered around "Black Lives Matter," with at least one employee inscribing the mantra and another crossing it out in favor of "All Lives Matter."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg objected to this display of political speech and voiced his displeasure in an internal memo, obtained by Michael Nunez of Gizmodo.

"There are specific issues affecting the black community in the United States, coming from a history of oppression and racism," Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in the memo. "'Black lives matter' doesn't mean other lives don't - it's simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve."

The Facebook signature wall in its New York office is a whiteboard with the company logo and the invitation, "Write something here." It features names, notes, and a few drawings, according to The Associated Press.

The Black Lives Matter cross-out battle has apparently been an issue inside the company before, as Zuckerberg wrote that he and other company leaders have told employees to stop crossing out Black Lives Matter messages. Having already heard and ignored the warning, the employees' behavior has escalated from "disrespectful" to "malicious," Zuckerberg wrote.

His memo discussed the free speech implications of both the notes and the cross-outs, probably an appropriate element to include in the discussion at a social media company.

"We've never had rules about what people can write on our wall - we expect everybody to treat each other with respect," he wrote. "Regardless of the content or location, crossing out something means silencing speech."

Having expressed his feelings on the style of discourse appropriate for the company's employee signature wall, Zuckerberg has set up a town hall meeting on March 4 about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the memo noted that investigations into the cross-outs have begun. …

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