Outgoing Employee Describes Facebook’s ‘Black People Problem’

Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

It’s no secret that, broadly speaking, the technology industry has a diversity problem. It is overwhelmingly composed of white people and men, and those biases (conscious and unconscious) seep into the world-shaping products that they oversee. That situation was brought into starker relief earlier today when Mark Luckie, a former Facebook partnerships manager who recently left the company, posted a memo that he had sent to all of Facebook’s employees on his way out. In it, Luckie outlines how Facebook is “failing its black employees and its black users.”

Luckie’s post covers two central areas of concern. The first is that while black Facebook users rely on the service and are more engaged on it than other groups, Facebook has been negligent in addressing their concerns. In particular, Facebook’s mystery-box moderation procedures have made creating “safe spaces” on the platform a hassle.

Secondly, Luckie addresses Facebook’s corporate culture at its Menlo Park HQ. “In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people,” Luckie writes, noting that Facebook has spent a long time talking the talk but almost no time walking the walk.

Particularly striking is this portion of his post:

On a personal note, at least two or three times a day, every day, a colleague at MPK [Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park] will look directly at me and tap or hold their wallet or shove their hands down their pocket to clutch it tightly until I pass. The frequency is even higher when walking through Classic campus or Building 20. To feel like an oddity at your own place of employment because of the color of your skin while passing posters reminding you to be your authentic self feels in itself inauthentic.

To remedy these issues, Luckie recommends a few things, like diversity audits, an anonymous system for reporting microaggressions, and a more concerted effort to get diverse talent into the pipeline.

It’s been a bruising year overall for Facebook, with employee morale dipping to historic lows according to internal survey results. “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,” a Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Luckie said on Twitter this afternoon that he had received a different response internally, posting a message from senior leadership (namely, most likely, Facebook’s head of partnerships, Ime Archibong) who did not like the generalizations in Luckie’s memo.

Black employees currently represent only 1 percent of technical roles in the company, and 2 percent of leadership roles, according to Facebook’s annual diversity report.

Former Employee Describes Facebook’s ‘Black People Problem’