Facebook Criticised For Workplace Suppression Controls

Facebook has been marketing Workplace, an Intranet-style chat and office collaboration product, as having built-in labor union suppression tools. Workplace allows employees to see a stream of content similar to a news feed, with automatically generated trending topics based on what people are posting about.

Howerer, Workplace also has contols that allow administrators to remove and block certain trending topics and blocking certain words used among employees. This comes at a time when more and more Americans and Europeans are using Facebook to organise civil rights demonstrations and other protests in connection the the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

A report by The Intercept investigative website claims that Worklplace allows businesses to censor certain words from employees from the office management platform and that, earlier this month, a Facebook employee lost his job after he tweeted about his co-workers not cooperating with him in connection with a Black Lives Matter protest within the company. 

Workplace allows employees to see a stream of content similar to a news feed, with automatically generated trending topics based on what people are posting about. Companies use it to discuss projects, coordinate meetings, and share information. It strives to function as a digital office that in the context of the explosion in remote working  is more important than ever.  Companies use it to discuss projects, coordinate meetings, and share announcements. Facebook Workplace is currently used by major employers such as Walmart, as well as the Singapore government, Discovery Communications, Starbucks and even the Campbell Soup Corporation.

When numerous employees are are using Workplace to discuss a specific word, phrase, or topic which an employer might find objectionable, Workplace enables the employer to remove the topic from the trending list and the suggestion that Facebook is actively building tools designed to suppress labour organising has caused disquiet among Facebook employees. 

With the continued growth of social media platforms, it was inevitable that employees would voice their complaints about work online. Employers may be inclined to discipline or even fire employees due to online postings critical of the workplace. If, however, those online postings constitute protected concerted activity, the US National Labor Relations Act may prevent employers from taking any disciplinary action. The fact that employees are using Facebook and other social media tools to discuss work does not alter the basic analysis of what does and does not constitute protected concerted activity. 

Facebook has long been criticised for selectively regulating what’s posted on its platforms, allowing paid ads to remain online no matter what. 

Facebook has prided itself on promoting free speech on its platform and has even come under fire from employees who staged a virtual walkout to protest the company’s decision not to flag an inflammatory post from President Donald Trump, in which the president appeared to endorse shooting in response to widespread looting and protests.

The unique sharing aspects of social media can raise surveillance issues and Facebook has been criticised for selectively regulating what’s posted on its platforms, allowing paid ads to remain online. Their relaxed  approach to potential political misinformation contrasts sharply with the powerful tools for employers to monitor and control discussions in the workplace.  

University of PennsylvaniaThe Intecept:   Mashable:      Fox Business News:   EdExLive:  

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