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An ex-Facebook spokesperson says he was 'wrong' about the company's free-speech mission counteracting ignorance and is urging employees to take action (FB)

FILE PHOTO: Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott
  • An ex-Facebook communications executive has published an open letter to employees about recent controversies the company has been embroiled in regarding its stance on freedom of expression and political content.
  • Barry Schnitt, who worked at Facebook for four years between 2008 and 2012, urged employees to do more to build trust in the company.
  • The letter comes as some Facebook employees are speaking out against the company's decision not to take down a controversial post from President Trump in reference to the George Floyd protests.
  • Employees also staged a virtual walkout in protest on Monday.
  • Are you a Facebook employee with insight to share? If so, we want to hear from you. Contact this reporter at leadicicco@businessinsider.com or through encrypted mail at lisaeadicicco@protonmail.com, or send a direct message on Twitter to @LisaEadicicco.
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A former Facebook executive accused the social network of willfully allowing misinformation and divisive content to proliferate on its platform and urged employees to take action and save the company.
In a remarkable open letter to Facebook employees on Tuesday, Barry Schnitt, who served as Facebook's director of corporate communications and public policy from 2008 through 2012, said that he had been mistaken in defending Facebook's approach to free speech during his time at the company.
"Facebook says, and may even believe, that it is on the side of free speech. In fact, it has put itself on the side of profit and cowardice," Schnitt wrote.
The letter comes as some Facebook employees have been speaking out against the company's decision not to take action against a post published by President Trump in reference to the George Floyd protests which said: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Schnitt said that he wrote back in 2009 that the company "believes in Facebook's mission that giving people tools to make the world more open is a better way to combat ignorance than censorship." Now, Schnitt says this outlook was wrong because there are more options than just "open" and "censorship."
"Most importantly, though, it's become obvious in the 11 intervening years that the opposite is actually true," Schnitt wrote. "The more successful Facebook is in accomplishing its mission, the more ignorance, deception and the like there appears to be in the world."
Schnitt spent eight years working as senior manager on Google's communications team before moving to Facebook. After he left, he served as Pinterest's senior vice president of marketing and communications until 2018.
Facebook has come under fire for its decisions regarding free speech and political content, and its handling of Trump's post marks the latest development in the controversy. The company's decision not to fact-check political advertisements, a stance that runs in contrast to Twitter's, has sparked widespread criticism. By contrast, Twitter does not allow political ads and has begun marking tweets that promote violence with a warning, regardless of whether they come from the president.
"We have a different policy than Twitter on this," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said when speaking with Fox News' Dana Perino. "I believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. I think in general, private companies shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."
In his letter, Schnitt puts Facebook's misinformation problem and its obligation to fight it into context by drawing comparisons to a grocery store, as mentioned below: 
"If you think of Facebook as the place where people get their information, it's like the one grocery store in a town. Everyone shops there and its shelves are mostly filled with food that is nutritious, fun, entertaining, engaging, etc… However, sprinkled through the shelves are foods that look like regular stuff but are actually poison. I'm not talking about junk food with frivolous or empty calories. I'm talking about food that literally poisons one's mind, turning him or her against science, facts, and other people. If that's your mindset, what resources would you leave on the table to find the poison? Are there any risks you would not take? At the very least, you would not hesitate to put warning labels on the poison."
On Monday, dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to show their opposition to the social media giant's recent actions.
Schnitt said that he still believes "Facebook does more good than harm," but that the company needs to do more.
"Just doing more good than harm is not enough," he wrote.

Read Schnitt's full post on Medium here. 

Are you a Facebook employee with insight to share? If so, we want to hear from you. Contact this reporter at leadicicco@businessinsider.com or through encrypted mail at lisaeadicicco@protonmail.com, or send a direct message on Twitter to @LisaEadicicco.
SEE ALSO: Read the memo Apple CEO Tim Cook sent to employees addressing the death of George Floyd
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https://www.businessinsider.com/former-facebook-spokesperson-open-letter-employees-stage-virtual-walkout-2020-6
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