Facebook Closed An Internal Chat Room Over Harassing Messages

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Facebook shut down FB Anon, an anonymous internal discussion board, stating that the forum had become a platform for heated political discussion and racist and sexist remarks sometimes, according to Business Insider. Though the forum was shut down last year, it was reported only on Wednesday.

Why FB Anon was shut down

The internal group was created in May 2015 as a popular platform for employees to share their opinions about the workplace. However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg found out that the platform was being used for harassment, and as a result, it was closed in December 2016.

In a statement to BI on Wednesday, Lori Goler, Facebook’s head of people, said, “A cornerstone of our culture is being open” but that the FB Anon internal Facebook group violated terms of service, which requires people who use Facebook to use an authentic identity on the platform. Initially, the platform was used to discuss ethical issues such as taking home extra food from the company’s cafeteria.

However, as the presidential campaign started in 2016, the discussions on the group got intense, mainly about politics. Facebook pulled down the group shortly after Trump was elected President. In a meeting earlier this year, Zuckerberg stated that the group had been shut down because workers were using it to harass their fellow workers.

Facebook has had a tough time managing diversity in the workforce. According to Business Insider, after Facebook decided to shut down the group, an anime character and the words “Silenced, but not silent” started appearing across the company campus. Also after the shutdown, another anonymous page was created for female and minority employees to discuss allegations of unfair treatment at the company, notes Gizmodo.

On Wednesday evening, Zuckerberg, however, vowed to remove violent threats and posts supporting hate crimes.

In a Facebook post, he also condemned white supremacists, saying, “It’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong — as if this is somehow not obvious.”

Little progress so far

Earlier this month, Facebook released its latest diversity report, showing some progress, although the overall percentage of minorities remains small.

“We aren’t where we like to be, but we’re encouraged that over the past year, representation for people from underrepresented groups at Facebook has increased,” the company said in a blog post then.

The number of women at Facebook increased to 35% this year, an increase from 33% last year and 31% in 2014 globally. That is surely progress, given the fact that the company’s employee base has increased 43% in the past year to over 20,000. However, the executive leadership roles are still dominated by white men. Further, the report showed a minor increase in the number of black and Hispanic workers, with both groups’ representation up by one percentage point, from 2% to 3% and 4% to 5%, respectively.

Other major Silicon Valley tech companies are also struggling to strike a balance between protecting employees’ rights and curbing hate speech. Just a few days ago, a Google employee sparked a row by criticizing the company’s diversity efforts.