Facebook's boycotts could be more insidious than anyone realises

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • The #DeleteFacebook campaign is gaining steam as Facebook is facing criticism for its role in the 2016 election.
  • But Facebook’s biggest problem may not be losing users – it may be losing employees.
  • Some Facebook employees are increasingly demoralized, The New York Times reports, and others are looking to transfer to other divisions in the company.

A campaign for Facebook users to delete their accounts is gaining steam as Facebook finds itself in another political controversy.

But Facebook could have a bigger problem on its hands.

In the wake of last week’s news that millions of Facebook users had their data improperly harvested by a political-consulting firm during the 2016 election, The New York Times reported deteriorating morale among Facebook employees.

Some Facebook employees are considering selling their company stocks, The Times reported, while others are looking to transfer to other divisions of the company like WhatsApp and Instagram.

Fuelling employees’ discontent is the perceived inaction of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who before late Wednesday afternoon had remained silent on the data-harvesting issue. The Daily Beast reported that neither Zuckerberg nor the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, faced employees at a company briefing about the issue on Tuesday.

If Facebook’s reputation continues to take a hit, the company risks losing employees and having potential employees avoid it entirely. Kevin Roose, the author of the Times article, argued that employee morale was a far more significant threat to Facebook than a revolt among users.

“Bad PR and angry regulators are bad for Facebook. But this kind of employee morale is much worse,” he said in a tweet.

Though Facebook has seen its share of controversy over the years, employees have consistently reported high levels of satisfaction. The company was recently named the best place to work in America for the third year in a row, according to the career-ratings site Glassdoor, and transparency between upper management and employees was a big reason.

“Lots of people want answers, including Facebook’s employees,” Ina Fried of the news website Axios said.

The tech writer Simone Stolzoff compared the situation to the one Uber employees faced last year after Travis Kalanick, then the CEO of the ride-hailing company, drew criticism for joining President Donald Trump’s business-advisory board. The company faced further backlash weeks later when customers accused the company of attempting to undermine a taxi-driver strike at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

“The biggest fallout of #deleteuber wasn’t about the bottom line,” Stolzoff tweeted on Wednesday. “It was all of the engineers’ friends asking them to explain why they work at Uber over beers.”

Zuckerberg addressed his company’s role in the data breach in a Facebook post on Wednesday, saying, “I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform.”

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