Facebook to bar staff from discussing social and political issues

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc on Thursday said it would update its internal discussion policies to impose restrictions on employees’ ability to debate social and political issues.

A company spokesman said Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg outlined his plans for the curbs to employees on Thursday, with details of the new rules to be announced next week.

“What we’ve heard from our employees is that they want the option to join debates on social and political issues rather than see them unexpectedly in their work feed,” spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement.

“We’re updating our employee policies and work tools to ensure our culture remains respectful and inclusive.”

Osborne said the new rules would apply to employee discussions of how executives handle politically sensitive content on Facebook’s platforms, which was the subject of intense internal debates this summer.

He said Facebook aimed to ensure that debate of those decisions could still take place in “appropriate channels,” without clogging up other work-related discussions.

The company was also strengthening its harassment policy to keep conversation respectful and protect underrepresented employees, he said.

Google likewise this week said it would expand use of moderation on internal message boards, citing “tough global conversations,” CNBC reported here on Wednesday.

Like other tech companies, Facebook prides itself on fostering open debate inside the company, while taking a hard line against public disclosure of those conversations.

Conversation flows freely on Workplace, an internal social network that resembles Facebook’s namesake platform, and Zuckerberg opens himself to employee questions at a weekly Q&A.

But as staffers have become increasingly vocal about their disagreements with Zuckerberg, statements posted on Workplace have leaked to the press and become a headache for the company.

Discussions grew especially heated after June, when Zuckerberg decided not to take action against a post by U.S. President Donald Trump that used a phrase associated with segregation and police brutality.

Reporting by Katie Paul in San Francisco; additional reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni, David Gregorio and Diane Craft


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