Facebook reportedly shut down an internal chat room which evolved into a forum for anonymous Facebook employees to discuss their support of President Donald Trump.
Business Insider reports that Facebook has shut down an anonymous online discussion group called “Facebook Anon” that was created in May of 2015 and was intended to be used by employees to anonymously express their concerns and opinions about the Facebook company. However, over the course of the 2016 election, this anonymous group reportedly became a hub for political discussion and comments, which reportedly alarmed Facebook management. By December of 2016, the anonymous group was shut down with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claiming that the group had been “spreading harassment.”
The anonymous group reportedly became a key place of discussion for right-leaning Facebook employees, perhaps because they felt that they could express their conservative views more openly in an anonymous forum. It was reported that a poster advertising the group on Facebook’s campus stated, “Trump Supporters Welcome,” a sentiment that is typically out of place in Silicon Valley. Many observers have drawn comparisons between Facebook’s shut down of one of the few conservative leaning groups for employees and the firing of former Google engineer James Damore who was let go from his position at Google for criticizing the company’s PC culture.
Facebook’s Head of People, Lori Goler, spoke to Business Insider saying, “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together, and a cornerstone of our culture is being open. The FB Anon internal Facebook group violated our Terms of Service, which require people who use Facebook (including our employees) to use an authentic identity on our platform. Last year we disabled any anonymous internal groups or pages within Facebook, and reminded our people of the places at our company where they can have discussions about issues that matter to them, openly or confidentially as appropriate.”
“There was a feeling that everyone at the company was a Democrat or left-leaning,” an anonymous former employee told Business Insider, “I don’t think they really thought there would be too many people on the Trump side.” A month after the election of President Trump, the anonymous Facebook group was shut down. At a company meeting, Mark Zuckerberg was asked why the group had been shut down, replying that the group had been used by employees to harass people and this behavior would not be tolerated. Zuckerberg did not provide evidence of the harassment.
Shortly after the deletion of the group, more posters appeared on the Facebook campus featuring the beginning and end dates of the group with the tagline, “Silenced, but not silent.”