Butterfield grills Facebook boss on hiring diversity

Apr 12, 2018
In The News

During a congressional hearing on Facebook’s data collection practices and privacy policies, Rep. G.K. Butterfield grilled the social media giant’s founder on the lack of racial diversity in its ranks.

Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat and past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, pressed Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to hire more African-American workers and promote more black employees to senior leadership posts during Wednesday testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Citing Facebook’s own diversity figures, Butterfield noted that the company increased African-American representation from 2 percent to 3 percent in 2017.

“While this is a small increase, it’s better than none,” Butterfield said. “This does not nearly meet the definition of building a racially diverse community.”

Butterfield asked Zuckerberg to convene a meeting of Silicon Valley CEOs with the goal of increasing the number of African-Americans employed in the technology sector.

“Congressman, I think that that’s a good idea and we should follow up on it,” Zuckerberg said.

The Facebook founder — who is the world’s fifth-richest person with a net worth of more than $64 billion — was receptive to Butterfield’s concerns but did not make any firm commitments.

Butterfield said Facebook needs more African-Americans in upper management and lamented that the five executives listed on the management page of its website — Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner, Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer and Chief Product Officer Chris Cox — are all white.

“This does not reflect America,” Butterfield said, holding up a printout of the C-level executives’ biographies. “Can you improve the numbers on your leadership team to be more diverse?”

“Congressman, this is an issue that we’re focused on,” Zuckerberg said. “We have a broader leadership than just five people.”

“It’s not on your website,” countered Butterfield.

“I understand that,” Zuckerberg said.

“We can do better than that, Mr. Zuckerberg,” the congressman replied. “We certainly can.”

Butterfield also called on the Facebook chief to appoint more African-Americans to its nine-member board of directors, though he noted approvingly that former American Express head Kenneth Chenault, who was the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company, joined the board in February and Erskine Bowles, a former University of North Carolina System president and a White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, has been on Facebook’s board since 2011.

As his comments came to a close, Butterfield asked Zuckerberg to begin providing the Congressional Black Caucus with figures on employee retention, citing Facebook’s failure to retain African-American workers as a concern.


Wednesday marked Zuckerberg’s second day of congressional testimony in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The political consulting firm obtained personal information of an estimated 87 million Facebook users and sold it to candidate campaigns, including consultants working for President Donald Trump.

Zuckerberg testified before the Senate commerce and judiciary committees Tuesday and the House panel the following day, enduring nearly 10 hours of questioning from lawmakers.

Facebook has since banned the data analytics company and Zuckerberg has apologized for breaching users’ trust. More than 2.2 billion people use Facebook, making it the world’s most popular social network.

Echoing fellow congressmen’s concerns, Butterfield briefly touched on the data breach before quizzing Zuckerberg on hiring diversity practices.

“In my opinion, Facebook is here to stay and you have an obligation to protect the data you collect and the data that you use, and Congress has the power to regulate your industry and we have the power to penalize misconduct,” Butterfield said, “but I want to go in a different direction today, sir.”


Satire website The Onion used Butterfield’s picture and attributed a comment to him in a Wednesday story that implies government is holding Facebook to higher privacy standards than it holds itself. The article is headlined “Government Demands to Know How Facebook Got People to Give Up Their Civil Liberties Without A Fight.”

A statement attributed to Butterfield asks Zuckerberg to explain how he was “able to convince more than half of all Americans to relinquish their personal privacy with virtually no argument.”

“At press time,” the tongue-in-cheek story concludes, “Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) was asking Zuckerberg to walk Congress through how they could make the Patriot Act into a social media site.”

Another headline on The Onion’s homepage blared: “Congress Reassures Nervous Zuckerberg They Won’t Actually Do Anything About This.”

Unlike “fake news” websites that publish false information with the intent to deceive, The Onion uses humorous fiction as a form of commentary and acknowledges that its work should not be read as genuine news coverage.