Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg shut down an anonymous employee group following the election of Donald Trump, after it devolved into a forum for divisive political commentary that alarmed management, according to a report by Business Insider.
Named Facebook Anon, the group was formed in March 2015 as a side project by some employees and hosted innocuous discussions about office culture and workplace gripes. But in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the group's discussions became more political and more hostile.
According to the report, employees with conservative political beliefs saw the group as a sanctuary, and it specifically attracted Trump supporters. But even as right-leaning staff had found a haven in which to speak candidly, Zuckerberg concluded that the group was being used to harass employees, Business Insider wrote. By December, Facebook shut down the anonymous group and told the employees why that happened.
In a statement Wednesday to The Washington Post, Facebook's head of human resources, Lori Goler, said the cornerstone of Facebook's culture is openness. “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.”
The statement comes as several prominent Silicon Valley companies are grappling with enduring workplace issues centered on a lack of diversity and controversial expression. James Damore, a former Google employee who criticized the search giant's diversity initiatives in an internal memo, sparked condemnation from many who saw his views as sexist and racist. Others, however, including far-right publications and Internet personalities, celebrated Damore as a newfound hero.
Damore's firing prompted far-right activists to schedule several demonstrations across the country to protest Google's decision to terminate him. But those events were scrapped after bloody clashes in Charlottesville, in which a man who was reportedly a Nazi sympathizer allegedly crashed into a crowd of activists, killing one person and injuring 19.
In a Facebook post Wednesday evening, Zuckerberg joined other business leaders and elected officials in condemning white supremacists. He pledged to remove violent threats and posts celebrating hate crimes from the social network.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when Facebook told employees why it was shutting down the group.