If Then

Facebook’s Race Problem(s)

A former employee wants reform, and a civil rights group wants Facebook’s policy chief fired.

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On today’s show, hosts April Glaser and Will Oremus discuss the news that Tumblr will soon be banning all adult content on its site in response to some instances of child pornography that got it suspended from Apple’s App Store. Hundreds of thousands of Tumblr users are upset, and the plan appears to be backfiring.


Then, we’re excited to bring you a pair of interviews today, with two people who have emerged as leading critics of Facebook—one from the outside and one from within, right before he left the company. We’ll talk first with former Facebook employee Mark S. Luckie about what he calls Facebook’s “black people problem.” Those words came from a memo that he wrote shortly before leaving the company last month and published to the world after he left. We’ll ask him about his experiences at Facebook and the response to his criticism of the company.


Next, we’ll talk with someone who’s been thinking through problems at Facebook for many years—and recently discovered that his organization was also a target of the company’s controversial “opposition research” PR campaign. Rashad Robinson is the president of Color of Change, a progressive civil rights group that was among several nonprofits Facebook tried to discredit by highlighting its ties to the liberal financier George Soros. In the wake of that story, Robinson met last week with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. We’ll ask him how that meeting went and what fixes he hopes Facebook can make, especially given that Color of Change has been advocating for a civil rights audit of the tech giant.


8:15 - Interview with Mark Luckie
16:00 - Interview with Rashad Robinson
35:20 - Don’t Close My Tabs


Stories discussed on the show:

Slate: Tumblr Should Not Ban Porn. It Should Welcome More Porn!

Facebook memo: Facebook Is Failing Its Black Employees and Its Black Users

BuzzFeed News: This Document Is Some of the Research Facebook Commissioned on George Soros

Politico: Facebook to Meet With Definers Target

The New York Times: Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

Slate: Facebook’s Former Security Chief Reflects on What Went Wrong

Don’t Close My Tabs:

The New York Times: Philippine Journalist, a Thorn to Duterte, Turns Herself In to Face Charges

Twitter: @NatashaVianna

Podcast production by Max Jacobs.

If Then plugs:

You can get updates about what’s coming up next by following us on Twitter @ifthenpod. You can follow Will @WillOremus and April @Aprilaser. If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State UniversityNew America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.