Facebook has come under heavy criticism over the past year for how the social media giant has torpedoed its approach to civil rights issues on the platform. A recent audit found that despite recent steps to expand its policies and ban discrimination, Facebook continues to undermine its own progress. A new report from The Washington Post delves into the ways in which the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the organization The philanthropic organization founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, has also failed to meet many of its stated goals. CZI is a separate entity from Facebook, but CZI’s black employees say that, particularly when it comes to racial justice issues, the company’s leadership makes too many compromises.
Some black employees say their voices have been marginalized and their experience discounted. They also say that CZI’s grantmaking has left black leaders and black communities without support.
A group of black CZI employees wrote a letter to Chan in June, following Zuckerberg’s comments about the organization’s work to fund social justice causes. “… the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has been one of the largest funders, investing ~ $ 40 million a year for several years in organizations working to overcome racial injustice,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “Priscilla and I are committed to this work, and we hope to be in this fight for many years to come.” But Black CZI employees wrote that they often encountered “resistance and exasperation.”
“You, Mark, and the senior leadership team have asked us to be confident in your commitment to making CZI a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization,” the group wrote to Chan. “You have asked for grace as you each engage in your personal racial equity journeys. He has asked us for these things for years, but he hasn’t made much progress. “
CZI’s chief operating officer said in a statement to the Post that philanthropy had “work to do internally,” adding that “progress has been uneven in our problem areas, and it has not always been explicitly named or systematically monitored.” He also stressed that Facebook does not dictate CZI decisions. In June, more than 140 scientists receiving funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative sent a letter to Zuckerberg saying that allowing President Trump to use Facebook “to spread both disinformation and inflammatory statements” does not It was just a violation of Facebook policies, it was “directly antithetical.” to CZI’s goal of building a “more inclusive, fair and healthy future for all.” The Post’s story on CZI and its black employees details how Chan worked to address some of the concerns of black employees, but with mixed results, and how what he calls Zuckerberg’s blind spots hampered many well-intentioned endeavors. The article mentions that it explored “company meeting recordings, employee surveys, email, and interviews with current and former employees,” a great example of the kind of methodical and tenacious reporting the Post does best. Go read this story deeply informed of how even an organization with a huge pocketbook and the best of (declared) intentions can still find itself struggling to live up to its own lofty ideals.