After Facebook staff walkout, Zuckerberg defends no action on Trump posts

In this file photo Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on "An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors" in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on October 23, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 02 June 2020

After Facebook staff walkout, Zuckerberg defends no action on Trump posts

  • A group of Facebook employees complained the company should have acted against Trump’s posts about protests
  • Zuckerberg told employees Facebook had conducted a thorough review and was right to leave the posts unchallenged

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees on Tuesday that he stood by his decision not to challenge inflammatory posts by US President Donald Trump, refusing to give ground a day after staff members staged a rare public protest.
A group of Facebook employees — nearly all of them working at home due to the coronavirus pandemic — walked off the job on Monday. They complained the company should have acted against Trump’s posts about protests containing the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Zuckerberg told employees Facebook had conducted a thorough review and was right to leave the posts unchallenged, a company spokeswoman said. She said Zuckerberg also acknowledged the decision had upset many people working at the company.
On Friday, Twitter Inc. affixed a warning label to a Trump tweet about widespread protests over the death of a black man in Minnesota that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter said the post violated its rules against glorifying violence but was left up as public interest exception, with reduced options for interactions and distribution.
Facebook declined to act on the same message, and Zuckerberg sought to distance his company from the fight between the president and Twitter. He maintained that while he found Trump’s remarks “deeply offensive,” they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence.
One employee, who had tweeted his dissent on Monday, posted on Twitter his disappointment with Facebook executives.
“It’s crystal clear today that leadership refuses to stand with us,” Brandon Dail wrote on Twitter. Dail’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a user interface engineer at Facebook in Seattle.
Timothy Aveni, a junior software engineer on Facebook’s team dedicated to fighting misinformation, announced on Monday that he was resigning his position.
“Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence. He showed us on Friday that this was a lie. Facebook will keep moving the goalposts every time Trump escalates, finding excuse after excuse not to act,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Civil rights leaders who attended an hour-long video call on Monday night with Zuckerberg and top Facebook executives called the CEO’s explanations for allowing Trump’s posts to stay up “incomprehensible.”
“He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters,” said a joint statement from leaders of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Color of Change.


Playtime for Saudi LEGO fans as new store opens in Jeddah

Updated 19 min 20 sec ago

Playtime for Saudi LEGO fans as new store opens in Jeddah

DUBAI: Following LEGO’s first Saudi store opening in Jeddah and the launch of its new Super Mario collection, we catch up with Urszula Bieganska, head of marketing, LEGO MEA.

Q: Tell us about the partnership with Nintendo and Super Mario.

A: It is a really exciting partnership for us; we have been working with Nintendo on launching Super Mario for quite a few years. The objective for both companies was to develop something of amazing quality, which is why we took our time working on the project.

Q: Where is it available and when is it launching?

A: It has already launched in Japan, and Aug. 1 was the global launch, although it has been available for pre-order prior to that date.

Q: Tell us about your new store in Jeddah.

A: We just opened the first Lego store at the Red Sea Mall in Jeddah and have launched the online store as well, which is going to carry all LEGO products available globally. For the first time ever, we actually have all the products available in Saudi Arabia.

Q: Why did you choose to open your first Saudi store at this time?

A: We were considering this for a long time, but we were also looking for the right partner to do it with. It’s a franchise model in partnership with the Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group. Once we established a relationship with this company, we were finally able to bring proper Lego stores to Saudi Arabia, which we’re incredibly excited about.

We opened the physical and online stores on the same day just to make sure that we catered to consumers’ different needs. Not everyone feels confident enough to go and shop in-store yet. Saudi Arabia is a huge country, and the physical store is only in Jeddah, so we wanted to invest in the e-commerce store to make sure we’re able to reach everyone.

Q: Do you have plans with any other Nintendo brands, such as Pokémon? 

A: That’s not something I’m able to talk about right now. We are focusing on Super Mario at the moment, but this is not just a one-year thing for us; it’s a long-term partnership with Nintendo. Also, it’s not limited to just one product. We have the starter set and a whole range of products through which fans can build their own Mario world. It also comes with an app that is free of charge and that you can download on your device to have an integrated experience. So, there are a lot of features that I think users will spend a long time exploring.

Q: What has the reception been like? There are a lot of adult fans too, for whom Super Mario could potentially have nostalgic value.

A: The interest has been quite overwhelming, and adults indeed make up a big part of the consumer base. There’s a lot of nostalgic sentiment.

Q: Can you describe your advertising and marketing strategy here in the Middle East and Africa region?

A: There’s so much excitement from fans surrounding this product, which has generated a lot of virality. This is positive especially right now when people are, to a large extent, operating in the home environment and are looking for different activities to stay occupied and entertained. So, through our campaign, we talked to both adult fans and parents because Super Mario is something that parents can relate to, and it’s exciting for kids as well.

Q: Did the pandemic and resulting lockdown affect your marketing activities?

A: We focused on the product reveal in different stages and started teasers as early as April-May 2020. We had to change our plans quite a bit! We had previously had a lot of event-focused advertising, and we wanted to have a big reveal where we would invite media and influencers in different global locations. But, due to the outbreak of the pandemic, we had to change our approach and strategy, which also put to the test the agility of our organization. We had to adopt a more virtual approach, so we sent over some sets for the biggest fans ahead of the launch. We also focused on social media advertising. But in the month of July, we actually pulled back a lot from investing in social media due to concerns regarding the safety of those platforms. We are posting organically, but we do not invest in promotion, and that will be the case for the foreseeable future until we conclude the conversations with these platforms.

Q: Did the pause in social media advertising negatively impact the campaign?

A: At the moment, no. To be honest, because we had already generated that interest and buzz, people kept coming back and checking in. Also, we benefited a lot from the fact that there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the two brands.