July 22, 2020
Facebook employees recently staged a virtual walkout over CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s “hands off” policy on misleading posts regarding elected officials and candidates, along with the organization’s subsequent inaction on a series of controversial posts President Trump wrote about the Black Lives Matter protests.
Employees expressed their solidarity with demonstrators across the country last month by logging off and automating their email responses and digital profiles to say they were out of the office in protest. Due to the nature of Facebook’s current working environment, this all took place online, but that doesn’t negate its effectiveness. In fact, the organization of this walkout perhaps changed the way we view what it means to protest.
Since these walkouts took place, more strikes have started all over the country. Employees at countless companies have leveraged social media to unite on issues that matter. But that’s not new: social media has been essential in the social justice toolkit for years now. The part that’s different, though, is the idea that virtual protests, when executed properly, can be just as effective as traditional protests—especially in the middle of a global pandemic.
One of the key motives of protesting is to inconvenience the people the group is standing against. A whole staff logging off for an entire Monday is quite inconvenient, especially at a company like Facebook.
Another thing that’s inconvenient? Your employees publicly shaming your policies on Twitter.
Following the walkout, several employees took to Twitter to express their discontentment with Facebook. Since the protest was virtual, there was a possibility of it getting swept under the rug—no one outside of Facebook HQ would even be aware it took place if the walkout ended there.
"Giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable, regardless who you are or if its newsworthy," Andrew Crow, head of design for Facebook's Portal devices, tweeted. "I disagree with Mark's position and will work to make change happen."
Tweets like these prompted the hashtag, #DeleteFacebookNow, to go viral and land at the top of Twitter’s trending page: there was no way HQ could keep this thing under wraps now.
This walkout had a ripple affect across all industries on its rise to public consciousness. Facebook is renown for their company culture and interpersonal connections between both employees and the company as a whole. This sense of community helped drive such an effective walkout and create a unified front to oppose Zuckerberg’s regulations (or lack thereof). Several employees have since submitted their resignation, citing the policies as their reasons for leaving. Others retracted their employment before ever even starting their position. Countless Americans have deactivated their Facebook accounts. What’s more, the Stop Hate for Profit campaign has garnered the support of over 400 highly influential companies ranging from Coca-Cola to Volkswagen and Microsoft to stop spending their advertising dollars on Facebook’s platform—a $70 billion juggernaut.
In the age of COVID-19, the shortcomings of some of our country’s largest companies have taken center stage, brand values are upheld or ignored on a public scale and being a protestor has taken on a whole new meaning. For the first time in history, thousands of employees, leaders and organizations have the ability to connect, mobilize and make waves from the palm of their hand. As brand custodians, it is your duty to uphold the values of your organization and create space for all to feel safe, welcome and protected.
Kate serves as Marketing Coordinator at the CMO Council where she drives the social media engagement strategy and assists in content and creative development for the CMO Council’s biweekly newsletter, Required Reading, and monthly e-journal, Marketing Magnified. She is a first point of contact for interviews featured in CMO Council reports as well. Kate holds a bachelors degree in Communication Studies and Foreign Affairs from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and currently resides in the Bay Area with her rescue dog, Archie. When she’s not writing for CMO Council, you can find her chipping away at her endless stack of novels on her bookshelf or writing her own.
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