News

Protesters at Facebook mourn loss of man who died by suicide and demand answers

 
Protestors call for more information relating to the death of Facebook employee Qin Chin, who died by suicide Sept. 19, at a vigil and protest held at Facebook headquarters on Sept. 26. (Photo courtesy of Emma Duan.)

A week after a Facebook employee died by suicide at company headquarters in Menlo Park, hundreds of people joined in front of the social media giant's "thumbs-up" billboard to remember the man who died and oppose toxic work conditions they believe may have led to his death.

The protest and vigil was held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, in remembrance of 38-year-old Qin Chen, who jumped from a building at the campus. It was attended by about 400 people, some Facebook employees and many others who met for the first time at the event to remember Chen and show solidarity with his surviving family members, according to an email from event organizers to The Almanac.

The group is demanding a full investigation into the work conditions the man experienced up until his death.

They're calling their campaign "We deserve the truth," because, as they explain, "a young employee jumped to death and the (tech giant) only called it passed away and silenced critics inside of the company."

"We urge full investigation and further action from Facebook to prevent future tragedies," they added.

They told The Almanac that Facebook has kept all information about the incident confidential and deleted the man's Facebook account activities immediately after his death.

The only available information at this point, they say, is from anonymous Facebook employees who may have worked closely with him in the past.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, "We are saddened by the tragic news that we lost one of our employees, Qin Chen, to suicide last week at our Menlo Park headquarters. And, we are doing everything we can to support his family and loved ones during this time."

"All of our actions are being guided by a world leading external expert in suicide prevention. We deeply care about our people and are providing on-site counseling to our employees and those who work on contract with Facebook, and offering mental health and suicide prevention support for all employees. Lastly, we are bringing the community together by creating safe spaces to openly share through our internal resource groups.”

Facebook declined to comment on whether an internal investigation is being conducted.

Former Facebook employee Patrick Shyu, who runs the YouTube channel TechLead, claims in a video that the man who died was from China and in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, which means that if he lost his job, his family would be impacted and he could face deportation if he didn't find a new job within six months.

Citing message boards used by Facebook employees, Shyu claims that it appears that the man may have attempted to transfer to another team within Facebook but was allegedly prevented from doing so. He was also allegedly scheduled to undergo an intense form of internal review about an hour after his death, Shyu reports. However, these details are not confirmed.

Facebook's policies on workplace harassment and bullying can be found here.

The law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is investigating the suicide and has asked people who have any information to contact Qiaojing Ella Zheng via email at qzheng@sanfordheisler.com or phone at (415) 795-2020.

Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 1-855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 1-888-628-9454.

People can reach trained counselors at Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Additional resources can be found here.

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Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2019 at 3:58 pm

This is a tragedy for the employee and those that worked with him but I hardly see this as a problem caused by Facebook. If there was a "toxic work environment" and from talking to many current facebook employees that is not what I am hearing, then he could have found a job at a different company. Unemployment in this area is at record lows and a tech person should be able to find a job in a few days if not weeks. If he jumped before he was "scheduled to undergo an intense form of internal review" maybe he knew that he was at risk based on his performance. That is just speculation but seems to make sense. I hope anyone else in this situation reaches out for help before deciding to take a permanent solution to a temporary problem.


2 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2019 at 4:57 pm

I think more transparency of the matter and an open investigation by FB into the events leading up to his suicide and people who may be involved including his direct supervisor would clear up the confusion. Facebook may not be entirely responsible for his suicide, but they should still conduct an investigation, if only to prove their innocence. Deleting the FB account of the deceased and his profile within the company just seem like there is something FB is trying to hide.


2 people like this
Posted by mike
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2019 at 7:49 pm

When Facebook declines to indicate whether it will investigate, it means NO.
If the manager who bullied Qin is found guilty, Facebook can be held responsible. Of course it does not want that. Even if Facebook fires that manager, it will prefer to do it quietly.

I faced similar treatments from multiple managers but I was lucky enough to find another job. What Qin experienced is common practice.


2 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2019 at 10:12 pm

A few years ago when I was wrongfully fired from UCSF Medical Center, I went on facebook to find out that FB was offering to train people to program for free. Unfortunately, it was strictly for people who lived in 3rd world countries. Now we know why!


2 people like this
Posted by akshar
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2019 at 11:40 pm

Hello all,

Those who do not work in the tech industry don't have the right to support Facebook for it's actions.

I would encourage you to imagine and understand the circumstances of the painful death before sidelining it as routine suicide.

Everyone who wants to bring justice to Qin please join the Facebook group:
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Oscar
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2019 at 12:45 am

Facebook definitely need to be hold accountable. All they did now, denial to comment on if there is investigation, delete the victim’s account immediately, are hints of covering up. The possibility that Facebook has nothing to do with the man’s death is 0.


8 people like this
Posted by Private
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2019 at 11:43 am

Most of you don't know about privacy laws in the workplace. Facebook is actually prohibited from revealing anything. There can be many reasons that lead a person to suicide. Don't assume it was because of bullying. And don't assume you have a right to know. I'm sure Chen's family would also like the matter to remain a private one.

My condolences to Chen's family and friends.


8 people like this
Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2019 at 5:33 pm

I agree that the privacy laws prevent Facebook from disclosing much information. It does not see unusual that they would hide the account immediately and remove them from the internal network. I don't see a cover up at all. Mike says that the "manager who bullied Qin", but there is nothing to indicate that he was bullied in any way. That is pure speculation. If someone is "bullied" in the workplace they can go to HR, but if the "bullying" is simply setting reasonable expectations and taking action when those are not met (Bad review, Performance improvement plans, termination) that is hardly bullying. Also in this area with unemployment so low people can find a new job in a few days, so if they were unhappy why not find a new job then leave Facebook?


2 people like this
Posted by Moogie
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Sep 28, 2019 at 7:28 pm

Sadly, this does not surprise me in the least. I express sincere condolences, love, and compassion for this man and his family and friends. The sad fact is that Mark Zuckerberg is a draconian man who lies through his teeth about "peace, love, acceptance, universal brotherhood, kindness, sincerity, and protecting the individual's liberty...when in fact he and his Facebook administrators hypocritically ban, blacklist, and suspend accounts of people who have viewpoints that Zuckerberg disagrees with. I do not hate him. He is very intelligent and FaceBook has great potential for great things. But the fact stands: This poor man was probably exposed to similiar draconian "political correctness" and bullying in some form and he did this sad and tragic thing.


4 people like this
Posted by Ubiquitous
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2019 at 4:39 am

Many people commit suicide in our nation today and their employers are not necessarily automatically put thru the ringer and asked to explain themselves. All possible causes of the suicide should be investigated and acted upon, but please pump the brakes on pointing the finger at an employer so quickly. And those protesters should be standing in front of the national institute of mental health's doors because the mental health state in USA needs more attention on that entity than Facebook. This man might have committed suicide no matter where he worked.


4 people like this
Posted by Downtownr
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2019 at 7:29 pm

Blaming any employer for a suicide is presumptuous and ignores myriad other possibilities. Health issues? Marital problems with an unhappy spouse? Financial problems? Undiagnosed mental health issues, of which depression is certainly the most obvious?
Maybe he needed counseling in his native language & & couldn't find a professional sufficiently fluent in whichever dialect he spoke. Many H-iB workers have great computer skills but minimal language command.

Projecting and/or alleging the cause of such a drastic action as "bullying" is irresponsible, as is automatically blaming the man's employer.

I'm not surprised that his Facebook account was deleted. That is common practice to prevent postings of speculative remarks or hurtful (to the family) comments about the decedent from being posted.

It's sad for Chen and his family that a mature adult chose to dramatically end his life. Blaming the company he worked for is not appropriate.


3 people like this
Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 30, 2019 at 8:52 pm

Rest In Peace young man. Whatever lead to this tragedy is a shame, we may never know, but let the poor boy Rest In Peace.


Like this comment
Posted by A FB Spouse
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2019 at 11:35 am

My heart goes out to Qin's family, friends, and everyone affected by his death.

What I am wondering is what is FB doing, in terms of prevention? We like to pretend suicide "won't happen" to us. To our family, to our business, to our community, but it happens. Hoping you/your community/your business/your family is untouchable doesn't prevent suicide.

So, Facebook, now it has happened to you. What are you doing? What have you learned? What will you change? No one can bring Qin back, but you can still help others. What led him to this? Maybe you cannot tell us, but that doesn't mean you cannot act.

What about the Quality of Life issues? Especially as you are sending thousands off campus to a new, lesser, location in the East Bay? How is this affecting their quality of life? Their commute, their happiness? What is it like when they get there? You should care, you should have cared before, but now everyone is watching you, so you need to listen to your employees. Better yet, you need to ASK them. And then you need to ASK them again. And then you need to ASK them again. Make sure they feel HEARD.

Do this for Qin.



2 people like this
Posted by How do we know
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2019 at 1:36 pm

How do we know this was Facebook's fault or that FB had any contribution to it?
How do we know, specifically? Until then, hold off on the FB needs to do this and that sanctimony.
For all we know his work may have been his only happiness.


Like this comment
Posted by Fathima
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2019 at 11:44 am

Life is a gift. No one has the right to take his/her life. To stand and defend your life is everyone's right no matter what. Why are we taught otherwise?


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