PALO ALTO, Dec.16 – Senior executives at Facebook Inc sought to rally employees around business priorities like commerce and virtual reality at their year-end meeting yesterday, and downplay the criticism they faced this year for the company’s record of false and violent rhetoric.
“The director is over. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told staff, according to an audio recording of the speech that Reuters heard, I think the only way forward is to keep going.”
Zuckerberg acknowledged that criticizing Facebook has hurt employee morale, saying public scrutiny “comes with the region.” But he also took a defiant tone, arguing that at least some of the reactions came from competitors or those with an interest in tarnishing Facebook’s reputation.
“We also have to realize that we have many competitors, and there are people who think that their success depends on our failure. So it is important not to just accept all criticism reflexively.”
Critics slammed Facebook this year for its hands-off approach to rhetoric on its services, including in a rare employee exit accusing Zuckerberg of not adequately censoring US President Donald Trump’s posts.
The world’s largest social network also faced an announced boycott this summer over its handling of hate speech, rampant violent rhetoric around the US presidential election in November, and a battle brewing with organizers over alleged anti-competitive behavior.
Despite these headwinds, Zuckerberg and other executives who spoke in yesterday’s sessions, including chief product officer Chris Cox and chief technology officer Mike Schroopfer, have largely tried to keep the focus on technology and product priorities.
Zuckerberg said he will focus “specifically” on technologies that provide a “deeper sense of being,” such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
He also said the company has a “unique opportunity around trade and payments,” as well as building tools that will enable collaboration between people who work remotely.
Chief Operating Officer Sherrill Sandberg, who played a less visible public role with Facebook than in previous years, concluded the session by thanking employees for adapting to the remote work arrangements imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
She said about 20,000 new employees joined the company this year, including 17,000 hired after the start of the pandemic and who hadn’t set foot on a Facebook office. Reuters