Outgoing Facebook Employee Slams Company for Treatment of Black Employees and Users

'Facebook has a black people problem'

“In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people," Mark Luckie wrote. Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

A former manager at Facebook published a scathing memo on Tuesday criticizing the social media giant for its treatment of its black users and its black employees.

Mark Luckie, a former partner manager for global influencers at Facebook who focused on underrepresented voices, wrote in a memo to staff that Facebook was “failing” its black users and its few black employees.

“Facebook has a black people problem,” Luckie wrote in the memo, which he first circulated internally nearly a month ago and subsequently made public on Tuesday. “One of the platform’s most engaged demographics and an unmatched cultural trendsetter is having their community divided by the actions and inaction of the company. This loss is a direct reflection of the staffing and treatment of many of its black employees.”

Luckie wrote that black users make up a major engaged user base on Facebook but have negative experiences on the platform, including the removal of their posts, content and profiles. Black employees, Luckie wrote, sometimes face racial discrimination at the company and find little to no support from Facebook’s human resources team. Luckie said that although black employees make up 4 percent of Facebook’s work force in 2018 (a slight increase from the reported 2 percent in 2017), efforts at improving diversity hadn’t gone far enough.

“There is often more diversity in Keynote presentations than the teams who present them,” Luckie wrote. “In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people. Facebook can’t claim that it is connecting communities if those communities aren’t represented proportionately in its staffing.”

Luckie detailed workplace problems and discrimination that black employees face, including being profiled by security, being told they were too aggressive when speaking or being discouraged from participating in discussions or meet-ups for black employees. Those workplace dynamics, Luckie wrote, make it hard for black people to be productive team members at a company, which in turn make it harder for the company to address external concerns coming from black Facebook users.

“To continue to witness and be in the center of the systematic disenfranchisement of underrepresented voices, however unintentional, is more than I’m willing to sacrifice personally,” Luckie wrote. “I’ve lost the will and the desire to advocate on behalf of Facebook.”

In an emailed statement, Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison said the company would “keep doing all that we can to be a truly inclusive company.”

“Over the last few years, we’ve been working diligently to increase the range of perspectives among those who build our products and serve the people who use them throughout the world,” the statement read. “The growth in representation of people from more diverse groups, working in many different functions across the company, is a key driver of our ability to succeed.  We want to fully support all employees when there are issues reported and when there may be micro-behaviors that add up.”

Luckie’s memo, which detailed recommendations for Facebook to improve its handling of diversity both internally and externally, comes as Facebook is already facing intense public and governmental scrutiny for its handling of users’ private data and amid the continued fallout from a deeply critical New York Times report about Facebook’s handling of various scandals and problems at the company.

The memo also more broadly addresses the ongoing lack of diversity at many major tech companies and the problems that stem from it. In 2016, Gizmodo reported that “Black Lives Matter” signs on Facebook’s campus were repeatedly defaced within Facebook headquarters to read “All Lives Matter.” At the time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg chastised those responsible, saying it was a “deeply hurtful and tiresome experience” for the company and for its black employees. Zuckerberg has occasionally spoken about the need for tech companies to better address diversity.

Luckie, who had worked at Facebook for slightly over a year before departing this month, was previously the head of news and journalism at Twitter. Luckie has been a vocal advocate for increasing diversity in tech and has been critical of tech companies for how they have addressed issues of diversity.

@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.