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Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

Representing the 3rd District of Ohio

Ohio congresswoman rips into Mark Zuckerberg, calling it 'appalling and disgusting' that he failed to answer questions about Facebook's civil rights and diversity problems

Oct 23, 2019
News Articles

Rep. Joyce Beatty called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's approach to civil rights and diversity "appalling and disgusting" during Zuckerberg's testimony with the House of Representatives' Housing and Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

Though much of the discussion was focused on Facebook's plans to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra, Beatty took Zuckerberg to task for the company's lack of diversity and ongoing housing discrimination lawsuit.

Beatty is the vice-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and said she has met with Facebook several times in the past year to discuss the company's approach to diversity and inclusion. In March, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook, claiming it was allowing realtors to exclude people of specific race, gender, and background from targeted housing advertisements.

Speaking during the committee meeting on Wednesday, Beatty said that Facebook has $46 billion in cash and securities, but none of its funds are handled by companies with diverse ownership, and said the company does not contract legal firms with diverse ownership either.

The congresswoman suggested that Facebook could have avoided violating federal housing policies if the company's management had been more diverse.

"You should have known better, and maybe if you had real diversity or inclusion on your team, somebody in that room would have said, when you looked at what you were doing in the housing, how you are red lining or using zip codes to eliminate people from getting information," Beatty said.

Zuckerberg struggled to answer multiple questions on Facebook's internal civil rights initiatives and the company's approach to diversity. Beatty specifically asked if Zuckerberg had reviewed materials related to diverse asset management that were sent to Facebook prior to Zuckerberg's testimony, and asked if he had read the civil rights audit that Facebook commissioned from civil rights advocate Laura Murphy.

When asked who was on Facebook's civil rights task force, Zuckerberg led with Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, but Beatty pushed for Zuckerberg to name someone more involved with civil rights causes.

"She's your COO, and I don't think there's anything — and I know Sheryl well — about civil rights in her background," Beatty said. "So come better than that for me, if we're going to talk civil rights."

Zuckerberg did not name another member of the team, and when asked which firm Facebook had hired to advise the company on civil rights matters, Zuckerberg again struggled to identify the firm. Facebook hired Relman Dane & Colfax, along with Murphy, to conduct a civil rights audit in May 2018.

"How could you not know, when you have employed the most historical, the largest civil rights firm to deal with issues that are major?" Beatty said. "And this is what's so frustrating to me, it's like you think it's a joke, when you have ruined the lives of many people, discriminated against them."

Beatty continued to criticize Zuckerberg's lack of knowledge on matters involving civil rights and diversity on Facebook, and said she would send follow-up questions to Facebook after Zuckerberg's testimony was over.

"Maybe you just don't read a lot of things that have to do with civil rights, or African Americans," Beatty said. "I have a lot of questions that I'm going to send to you that I'm not going to be able to get through, and I would like an answer — because this is appalling and disgusting to me."

 

This article was originally published by Business Insider on October 23, 2019.