LinkedIn held a diversity roundtable videoconference meeting for all employees on Wednesday. During a Q&A portion, the conversation turned to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory tweets and Facebook posts. And Fast Company has received audio of LinkedIn senior VP and general counsel Blake Lawit on the panel suggesting that the company might hold the president to a tougher standard than Facebook, which is currently under fire for its unwillingness to moderate Trump’s posts.
The answer came in response to a question in which an employee noted that Trump doesn’t use LinkedIn, then wanted to know how her company would respond to inflammatory messages from him. Donald Trump, as has been widely reported, tweeted and Facebook-posted messages calling for police to use overwhelming force to put down demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
“If a leader were to make a statement on our platform that violated our rules about inciting violence, then we would take action. We’d restrict the speech.” Listen to the audio here:
“We have clear policies and apply them consistently for everyone,” said LinkedIn’s VP of communication Nicole Leverich in response to this story.
Our source inside the company said some employees were disappointed that the officer didn’t say explicitly that they would restrict harmful posts from Donald Trump specifically. And the source also notes that it’s well known inside the company that Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and its principal liaison to governments, has a close relationship with the White House. (Microsoft owns LinkedIn.)
Wednesday’s meeting was billed as a chance for LinkedIn’s 9,000 employees to reflect on “our own biases, practicing allyship, and intentionally driving equitable actions.” After the meeting, one LinkedIn employee called the experience a “dumpster fire.”
As The Daily Beast originally reported, the virtual blue-jeans meeting, which was attended virtually by more than 9,000 employees worldwide, allowed for anonymous chat messages, and a number of employees seized on the opportunity to post anonymous comments that were racially insensitive and dismissive of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“As a non-minority, all this talk makes me feel like I am supposed to feel guilty of my skin color,” chatted one LinkedIn employee. “I feel like I should let someone less qualified fill my position. Is that ok? It appears that I am a prisoner of my birth.”
The day afterward, LinkedIn’s new CEO, Ryan Roslansky, sent a note to employees addressing some of the ugliness that took place in Wednesday’s meeting.
“In over 3,500 comments and 200 questions, colleagues shared an outpouring of appreciation, gratitude and support,” Roslansky wrote. “Unfortunately, a small number of offensive comments reinforced the very hard work we still have to do.”
LinkedIn has made little progress in diversifying its workforce over the past 10 years. For example, our source tells us that out of the 800 people in the company’s marketing and communications organization, only 40 are either black or Latino. You can see the company’s most recent diversity report here.