Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg hosted a nearly hour-long video call with U.S. civil rights leaders to discuss ongoing issues around his company’s policies as they relate to race, elections and other topics.
But participants were left disappointed, according to Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, who concluded that Zuckerberg can’t fully grasp the change they seek.
In an interview with Bloomberg News immediately after the call, Robinson said that “the problem with my ongoing conversations with Mark, is that I feel like I spent a lot of time, and my colleagues spent a lot of time, explaining to him why these things are a problem, and I think he just very much lacks the ability to understand it.”
These comments come at a time when the U.S. is roiled by daily protests for racial justice triggered by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, while in police custody in Minneapolis. Facebook has come in for criticism from within its own ranks, with an upswell of dismay among employees after the CEO adopted a hands-off approach to messages posted by President Donald Trump that seemed to threaten violence with the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“His employees are outraged,” said Robinson. “I’ve got outreach from some of them. Saying Black Lives Matter, saying I’m going to give money, but having your policies actually hurt black people, people will know the difference.” Some of the company’s senior staff have taken to Twitter to make their discontent public.
Facebook didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement sent to Axios, Facebook said it was “grateful that leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback.” The company added that “it is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”
Robinson also recently spoke up at a Facebook shareholder meeting and said he’s had dinner at Zuckerberg’s home and been on other calls with the CEO to talk about similar topics. Joining the Monday call was Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. All of this effort from Facebook’s executive team suggests the company is serious at least about bringing civil rights leaders on its side, however Robinson expressed more frustration than hope.
“He continues to do things and make decisions that hurt communities and put people in harm’s way and is not accountable for it,” said Robinson.
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