A caravan of about 20 protesters parked by Mark Zuckerberg's Palo Alto residence on Sunday afternoon to honk up a storm and deliver a message to Facebook's CEO: "Get the Zuck out!"
Protesters taped signs to their vehicles that called for Zuckerberg to be fired as CEO and stated that "Facebook is bad for democracy" after a whistleblower recently leaked thousands of confidential documents revealing how the Menlo Park-based social media giant is aware of its role in spreading disinformation and harming young people's mental health.
The event, which took place in front of Zuckerberg's home on Edgewood Drive, was organized by two San Francisco-based nonprofits: Global Exchange, an international human rights group, and Media Alliance, which promotes using media for social change. Raging Grannies, a local group of activists, and Code Pink, a women-led progressive grassroots organization, also helped plan the protest.
Media Alliance executive director Tracy Rosenberg said in an interview that it would be nearly impossible to convince billions of people to delete their Facebook accounts, so, instead, users like herself should demand changes from the platform.
"We are indirectly paying Facebook with our time, attention and engagement, because there is no Facebook if we don't do that," Rosenberg said. "So as users we should have some collective power here and we're trying to manifest that."
Facebook recently came under intense scrutiny from the public and federal lawmakers after Frances Haugen, a former product manager for the company, leaked troves of internal documents, detailing how the social media giant is aware that its products, including Instagram, spread disinformation and negatively impact teenagers' mental health yet chooses to avoid implementing effective safety measures.
"Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety," Haugen said in a "60 Minutes" interview on Oct. 3.
In a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Oct. 5, Haugen, who joined Facebook in 2019 and was part of its civic misinformation team, urged federal lawmakers to regulate the company and request more documentation from it in order to effectively do so.
"I'm here … because I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy," Haugen testified to lawmakers. "The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won't make the necessary changes."
In response, Zuckerberg took to Facebook to argue that his company has taken steps to consider its users' well-being, such as an algorithm adjustment that pushes fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family, and Haugen mischaracterized the company's intentions.
"It's disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don't care," Zuckerberg wrote.
This is far from the first time Facebook has had to parry with calls for more regulations. In the past few years, the company was criticised for stoking divisions in democracy amidst the 2020 presidential election, impacting youth's mental health, spreading COVID-19 misinformation and even inciting genocide in Myanmar.
Many people who heavily rely on Facebook for their work or to keep in touch with friends and family, but are also critical of the platform, are often stuck at an impasse on how to effectively protest against a social media giant with nearly 3 billion users.
"I'd love to delete Facebook," said Debi Rose, 61, a protester from San Mateo who manages several groups on the social media platform. "But I just can't. I have too much responsibilities on it."
Calling for Zuckerberg to step down as CEO is also a monumental challenge in itself. Rosenberg recognized that Zuckerberg has greater voting power at the shareholders' table, which is why she believes users need to coalesce and apply the pressure for change. Global Exchange and Media Alliance recently formed the Facebook Users Union under the belief that users are essentially stakeholders in the platform and thus should have a say in the decisions made by the company, Rosenberg said.
"We understand that technically the board cannot fire Zuckerberg because of the stock arrangement," she said. "However, that doesn’t mean that he can't be pressured or forced to step down. And we hope to start that conversation."