Congressman presses Zuckerberg on Facebook’s poor diversity record


In today’s hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) decided to take the opportunity to press Mark Zuckerberg on the subject of racial diversity in Silicon Valley.

After rebuking him for the Cambridge Analytica data leak, he changed the topic. “I want to go in a different direction today,” he said, with a sudden shift in tone. “You and your team know how I feel about racial diversity in corporate America, and Sheryl Sandberg and I talk about that all the time.”

Butterfield noted that although Facebook had “increased black representation from 2 to 3 percent” in the last year, “This does not meet the definition of building a racially diverse community.”

Butterfield waved a printout of Facebook’s leadership as listed on its own website, “not you and Sheryl [Sandberg], but David [Wehner], Mike [Schroepfer], Chris [Cox],” all of whom are white.

Zuckerberg responded that it was an issue Facebook was “focused on.”

Butterfield asked Zuckerberg to convene a meeting of CEOs to “develop a strategy to increase racial diversity in the technology industry” and to provide transparency into retention numbers. Zuckerberg told Butterfield on both counts that he would follow up.

It was not clear during Butterfield’s questioning why corporate diversity had any connection to a hearing titled “Facebook: Transparency and Use of Consumer Data.” Legislators previously did grill Zuckerberg on Facebook’s handling of data with respect to race — both Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) yesterday and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) mentioned the 2016 ProPublica investigation that showed Facebook was allowing advertisers to target by race, and Facebook’s role in enabling the surveillance of activists. Neither of these issues, nor whether they might have been prevented by increased diversity within Facebook, were mentioned by Butterfield.

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