In today’s hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) decided to take the opportunity to press Mark Zuckerberg on the subject of racial diversity in Silicon Valley.
After rebuking him for the Cambridge Analytica data leak, he changed the topic. “I want to go in a different direction today,” he said, with a sudden shift in tone. “You and your team know how I feel about racial diversity in corporate America, and Sheryl Sandberg and I talk about that all the time.”
Butterfield noted that although Facebook had “increased black representation from 2 to 3 percent” in the last year, “This does not meet the definition of building a racially diverse community.”
Butterfield waved a printout of Facebook’s leadership as listed on its own website, “not you and Sheryl [Sandberg], but David [Wehner], Mike [Schroepfer], Chris [Cox],” all of whom are white.
Zuckerberg responded that it was an issue Facebook was “focused on.”
Butterfield asked Zuckerberg to convene a meeting of CEOs to “develop a strategy to increase racial diversity in the technology industry” and to provide transparency into retention numbers. Zuckerberg told Butterfield on both counts that he would follow up.
It was not clear during Butterfield’s questioning why corporate diversity had any connection to a hearing titled “Facebook: Transparency and Use of Consumer Data.” Legislators previously did grill Zuckerberg on Facebook’s handling of data with respect to race — both Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) yesterday and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) mentioned the 2016 ProPublica investigation that showed Facebook was allowing advertisers to target by race, and Facebook’s role in enabling the surveillance of activists. Although neither of these issues, nor whether they might have been prevented by increased diversity within Facebook, were mentioned by Butterfield, some minutes later Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) drew a connection.
Clarke pointed to how Russian misinformation had attempted to stoke “racial and religious division and chaos” and asked Zuckerberg if the lack of diversity in his own C-suite had made this possible. Zuckerberg again acknowledged that lack of diversity was a problem but said that “in this case” it was not a factor, because “we were slow to identify the whole Russian misinformation situation” in general.
There have been media reports about how more than 3,000 Russian ads were bought on Facebook to incite racial & religious division & chaos in the US during the 2016 election.— Yvette D. Clarke (@RepYvetteClarke) April 11, 2018
Update April 11th, 10:06AM PT: This article has been updated with quotes from Rep. Yvette Clarke.