Facebook axes Workplace feature that blocked trending posts containing ‘Unionize’

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Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are under a lot of pressure for letting US President Donald Trump‘s inflammatory posts stay up on the platform. While the company has put on a ‘free speech champion’ face to defend its stance, a new report from The Intercept suggests that it recently pitched a tool to let admins block certain topics in its enterprise communication suite, called Workplace.

If you’re an employee in a company that uses Facebook for Workplace, you’ll see trending topics in your feed similar to the social network’s News Feed on your personal profile. The Intercept’s report notes that recently, Facebook debuted a tool that allows admins to block certain trending topics from that feed. What’s alarming is that one of the examples used to highlight this feature was “unionize.”

In response, a Facebook spokesperson told TNW that the company has pulled any plans to roll it out:

While these kinds of content moderation tools are useful for companies, this example was poorly chosen and should never have been used. The feature was only in early development and we’ve pulled any plans to roll it out while we think through next steps.

Some notable companies such as Walmart, Nestle, and Spotify use the social network’s Workplace product. In difficult times like the pandemic when several firms are laying off employees, it’s cruel to suppress labor voices that might be trying to mitigate the situation.

The Intercept’s report noted that after employees denounced the feature, the presentation was deleted. Karandeep Anand, a product manager apologized and said the feature was not meant for censoring users. 

Earlier this month, after showing their displeasure on Twitter, Facebook employees hosted a virtual walkout to protest against the company’s decision to not act on Trump’s post.

Meanwhile, a report from Vice suggests that the company censored an account that copied Trump’s post word to word. However, the company later restored the account and said the post had been “deleted in error.”

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