Read: How Facebook works for Trump
Even so, Facebook seems to have crossed the line of tolerable abhorrence for some tech workers. Inside the business, nextplayism may offer the best, and maybe the only, way for them to show their distaste. “The vast majority of people I know at the director-and-up level, when they are leaving a company and looking for a new gig, they’re Never Facebookers,” McCarthy, who is also an occasional collaborator of mine, said, referring to senior-level roles. “They’re offended if you even offer to do introductions to someone at Facebook.”
But that is a privileged attitude. Much of the magical operation of online services is driven by rote laborers, such as moderators, AI-training wranglers, and gig workers. They aren’t counted as members of the industry, except perhaps as its casualties. Among skilled, white-collar tech workers, nearly three-quarters were not born in the U.S., according to some reports. For those on work visas, work choices are determined almost entirely by their immigration status: According to the tech workers I spoke with, they tend to choose larger companies for stability, hoping to turn work sponsorships into green cards. Even if some workers disapprove of what their company is doing, quitting a job can mean losing their immigration status and running the risk of getting deported. The product manager at the large tech firm also speculated that immigrant engineers might not understand or care about uniquely domestic social issues, such as the specific history of antiblack racism.
Even among American citizens, some tech workers are in the business simply to make money, gain power, and solve problems—even if they create just as many new ones in the process. These “equity engineers,” as I’ll call them by one of their goals, cashing out, might have studied computer science in order to solve problems, or to live a good life. It would be a caricature to say that these archetypes don’t care at all for politics, but their radicalism tends to be an inward-facing one, lured by technolibertarian fetishes such as blockchain. For this group, technology is politics, and seeing the two at odds becomes incoherent.
That leaves only a small group in a clear position to speak up. Many of these folks represent the top of the workers’ food chain (though the venture partners still cast long shadows overhead). Probably white, probably engineers, and probably American-passport holders, they have plenty of other options both in and out of the Valley.
Take Timothy Aveni, the 22-year-old Facebook engineer who quit the company last week in disgust after Zuckerberg’s failure to act in response to Trump’s posts. Aveni, according to a post on his LinkedIn page, graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2019 with a 4.0 GPA in computer science (a program in which I teach), and worked for two summers as a Facebook intern before taking a full-time job at the company. He’s young, white, and American. In an email, Aveni acknowledged that he is privileged, well compensated, and burdened by few personal obligations or commitments. Leaving his job wasn’t an easy choice, but he is keenly aware that it wasn’t as hard as it might have been for someone else.