Facebook Took Down Mark Luckie’s Post, Invested $1M To Solve Its Black People Problem

Written by Dana Sanchez

A Facebook post written by former manager Mark S. Luckie that criticized the company for its “Black people problem” was temporarily taken down, preventing it from being viewed publicly, after it was flagged for violating Facebook’s community standards.

Facebook — valued at $139.77 billion as of Dec. 4 — announced that it had invested $1 million in CodePath.org, a nonprofit that provides computer science education to women and minority students at universities around the country, CNBC reported.

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Facebook is failing its Black employees and Black users, Luckie said in a memo that went public on Nov. 27. The memo was circulated to all company employees globally on Nov. 8, shortly before Luckie’s last day at the company. The number of Black employees at Facebook does not represent the company’s Black user base, Luckie said, and Facebook’s disenfranchisement of Black people on the platform mirrors the marginalization of its Black employees.

Removing posts without notice is one of the things Luckie called out Facebook for in his initial note:

Black people are finding that their attempts to create “safe spaces” on Facebook for conversation among themselves are being derailed by the platform itself. Non-black people are reporting what are meant to be positive efforts as hate speech, despite them often not violating Facebook’s terms of service. Their content is removed without notice. Accounts are suspended indefinitely.

About 20 minutes after his initial tweet, Luckie tweeted that Facebook had notified him and restored his post. The notification said that Facebook took a second look and determined the post didn’t violate its community standards after all.

“Turns out Facebook took down my post challenging discrimination at the company, disabling users’ ability to share or read it. Further proves my point,” Luckie tweeted today.

Luckie’s post was not an emotional rant, but a well-thought-out presentation of personally lived as well as observed experiences, said Deborah Gray-Young, a multicultural marketing professional and managing partner at D. Gray-Young, Inc.

“Hats off to him for not only writing it, but publishing it,” Gray-Young said in an email to Moguldom. “Black and Latinos are more intimidated and more vulnerable inside these prestigious tech companies than people realize.”

Facebook’s investment in CodePath.org will allow the company to expand from serving 400 students per semester to 1,000, founder Michael Ellison said in a statement. Since its launch three years ago, CodePath.org has helped 1,700 students at 30 “high diversity” universities including Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Jackson State University.

Black people problem
Image: Mark S. Luckie

CodePath.org is doing something unique—by offering free, remote computer science courses that will serve from freshman to senior year,” said Christian McIntire, Facebook’s lead for computer science education initiatives, in a CNBC interview. “They have the potential to help build one of the largest pipelines of high-performing, diverse software engineers for the industry.”

Luckie isn’t buying it.

“Facebook needs to step up and talk about the things it’s doing internally to create an inclusive space rather than just fixing the pipeline,” Luckie told CNBC. “What my post called them out on is not being addressed so far, and the lack of response from non-Black executives is very telling of the problems I outlined.”

Black people are one of the most engaged demographics on Facebook, far outpacing other groups in several engagement metrics, Luckie said in his post. They are driving the kind of meaningful social interactions Facebook strives to facilitate.

Each year, Facebook admits it has a diversity problem and says it is committed to fixing it. In the past five years, Black employees overall increased from 2 percent to 4 percent at Facebook, according to the company’s 2018 Diversity Report, released on July 12, 2018. This was the fifth such diversity report published by Facebook.

More than a year ago, after facing heat over Russian ads that sought racial division, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg promised the Congressional Black Caucus that Facebook would add an African American to its board.

“This effort feels forced, as if the board has no real conviction about this move to diversify. The pipeline excuse doesn’t really work at the board level,” Moguldom CEO Jamarlin Martin wrote in a blog.

Sandberg’s meeting with the caucus was part of an apology tour launched after Facebook denied, backtracked, then finally admitted the key role it played in Russia’s disinformation campaign.

Facebook finally got its first African American board member in January when Kenneth Chenault, the CEO of American Express, joined the until-then all white, mostly-male board.

“What companies like Facebook and others fail to recognize is that if internally your company does not reflect the communities and populations that use your product or service, eventually the company will be divorced from those users and said users will find other ways and means to meet their needs,” said multicultural marketing professional Gray-Young. “It might not happen overnight, but it will happen. There are plenty of examples of that in the marketplace right now.”