Brett Kavanaugh, Facebook, Social Media Companies, Tech

Facebook employees revolt after executive appears at Kavanaugh hearing

Facebook is once again facing uncomfortable questions from employees about the actions of one of its executives.

This time it’s Joel Kaplan, the company’s VP of global public policy, who last week attended Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing. Kaplan’s appearance, which raised some eyebrows at the time, resulted in a backlash from many Facebook employees, according to the New York Times

Kaplan attended the hearing not as a Facebook representative, but as a close friend of Kavanaugh, according to The Times. Nonetheless, his appearance did not go over well among Facebook employees, some of whom were dismayed at such a public showing of support by a top executive. Kaplan was seated prominently, just two rows behind Kavanaugh and was clearly visible during much of the hearing.

Although Kaplan defended his actions to staffers in an internal memo, noting that Kavanaugh and his wife are “my and my wife Laura’s closest friends in D.C.,” things escalated when other executives got involved.

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Image: Getty Images/Win McNamee

Sheryl Sandberg, who, The Times notes is personally close with Kaplan, reportedly told him it was “a mistake” for him to attend. Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his policy chief, saying he hadn’t broken any rules. Longtime Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth, who oversees Facebook’s hardware projects, also jumped into the fray, reportedly writing “it is your responsibility to choose a path, not that of the company you work for,” on an internal Facebook group for employees.

Bosworth later apologized for his remarks, but it has done little to calm the tension. The company plans to address the matter further at a town hall meeting Friday. 

For Facebook, this is just the latest example of how divisive political issues have further complicated the company’s already tenuous position within the U.S. political system. Earlier this year, a group of Facebook employees formed a group that criticizes the company for being intolerant to conservative viewpoints.

Other tech companies have faced similar employee revolts as well. Google opted to not renew its contract with the Department of Defense after facing an employee uproar over its use of AI to aid the targeting abilities of military drones in what was known as Project Maven. Microsoft faced similar pushback from employees over its contracts with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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