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Thursday, September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Erin Scott/Reuters

A Facebook software engineer resigned and publicly criticized the company on Tuesday, accusing it of "profiting off hate."

In a letter detailing their decision to quit, Ashok Chandwaney described some of Facebook's recent actions as breaking points that led them to quit. Chandwaney called out Facebook's failure to remove a militia group's event inciting violence against protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as well as its choice not to remove a post by President Donald Trump that said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Several Facebook employees have left the company in recent months after voicing similar concerns — at least three left in one week after CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees the company would not remove Trump's post. Those grievances build on years of scandals at Facebook, including its role in enabling Russian election interference, Cambridge Analytica spying, and genocide in Myanmar.

Chandwaney, who is gender nonbinary, laid out their reasons for leaving the company in a public Facebook post on Tuesday. They also detailed their decision to quit in an interview with The Washington Post and published a copy of their resignation letter on Facebook's internal employee message board.

In a statement to Business Insider, Chandwaney said they quit because they felt their criticism of Facebook wasn't being heard.

"As far as I can tell, the company is approaching hate content and hate organizing as a PR issue rather than a substantive issue to take real action on," Chandwaney said. ""From where I was sitting, after years of frustration, I couldn't see a better path to push for that change than to speak out publicly."

A Facebook representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (The company typically doesn't comment on personnel matters.)

Facebook has taken steps in recent months to crack down on hate speech and content that glorifies violence — the company recently implemented a ban on militia groups and commissioned a civil-rights audit of its platform.

But in their resignation letter, Chandwaney said Facebook's recent moves appeared more motivated by public relations than a willingness to change. Chandwaney added that they had become disillusioned with Facebook's stated mission to "build social value."

"I've heard numerous, unsatisfying explanations for how the various things I've worked on here has been building social value," they wrote. "In all my roles across the company, at the end of the day, the decisions have actually come down to business value."

Software engineers are among the most sought-after and highest-paid Facebook employees, according to publicly available salary data.

Chandwaney wrote in their resignation letter that they were motivated in part by the work of Color of Change, an activist group that has pressured Facebook to take a harsher stance on content moderation and remove content like Trump's post.

Color of Change's president, Rashad Robinson, applauded Chandwaney's letter in a statement on Tuesday.

"Color Of Change is happy to support them," Robinson said, "but it's a shame Facebook employees feel the need to turn to civil rights organizations to protect communities of color, rather than their own employer."


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