A Facebook engineer who works to combat the spread of misinformation on the platform is resigning from the social media giant as a result of how CEO Mark Zuckerberg has handled President Trump’s “increasingly dangerous rhetoric.”
Timothy Aveni announced his decision on Facebook on Monday afternoon, using the opportunity to call out the company for its unequal application of its own community standards.
“For years, President Trump has enjoyed an exception to Facebook’s Community Standards; over and over he posts abhorrent, targeted messages that would get any other Facebook user suspended from the platform,” he wrote. “He’s permitted to break the rules, since his political speech is ‘newsworthy.’”
“Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence,” Aveni continued. “He showed us on Friday that this was a lie. Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act on increasingly dangerous rhetoric.”
Last week, Trump published Facebook posts as protests flared around the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. In one message, Trump called protesters “THUGS” and said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” parroting a racist Miami police chief talking about civil rights protests in the 1960s.
Twitter put the messages behind a warning label that said they violated rules against “glorifying violence.” The company didn’t take the tweets down, however, saying it was “in the public’s interest” for the president’s posts to remain accessible.
Facebook did nothing. Zuckerberg met with several civil rights leaders on Monday to explain his decision, which they later jointly called “incomprehensible.”
“Since Friday, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand and process the decision not to remove the racist, violent post Trump made Thursday night, but Facebook, complicit in the propagation of weaponised hatred, is on the wrong side of history,” Aveni wrote.
“I cannot keep excusing Facebook’s behaviour,” he continued. “Facebook is providing a platform that enables politicians to radicalise individuals and glorify violence, and we are watching the United States succumb to the same kind of social media-fuelled division that has gotten people killed in the Philippines, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. ”
Politicians in those countries have used Facebook — and Facebook-owned WhatsApp — to spread disinformation that can result in remarkable violence. In Myanmar, for example, U.N. human rights experts strongly implicated Facebook in acts of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.
“I’m scared for my country and I’m done trying to justify this,” Aveni closed, noting his last day will be June 12.
Facebook didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.