Zuckerberg Security Chief Accused Of Sexual Harassment, Making 'Racist Remarks' About Zuck's Wife

Though rarely a day goes by without some new negative story about Facebook's misdeeds - whether it's pertaining to data privacy, it's inability to root out fake (and possibly foreign influenced) accounts, or some other scandal - it appears Buzzfeed and Business Insider dropped a pair of embarrassing reports apparently timed to coincide with Thursday's meeting.

First, Business Insider reported (and NBC News later confirmed) that Zuckerberg's personal security chief - a former secret service agent who served under President Obama - had been accused of sexual harassment, as well as making racist and homophobic remarks, including using racist slurs to describe Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan, who is Asian-American.

Zuck

The allegations against former secret service agent Liam Booth were brought by former members of Zuckerberg's household staff. 

Booth has been placed 'on leave' while the Zuckerberg family investigates the allegations.

Lawyers representing the employees - a former member of Zuckerberg's household staff and a former executive assistant to Booth - sent letters regarding the allegations to the law firm that represents the companies that provide security for the Zuckerberg family, according to Business Insider.

Booth has been placed on administrative leave while the Zuckerberg family conducts an investigation into the allegations, according to Ben LaBolt, a spokesperson for the Chan Zuckerberg family office. Booth could not immediately be reached for comment by NBC News.

"The family office takes complaints of workplace misconduct very seriously and our human resources team promptly investigates all such matters," LaBolt said

"The allegations against Liam Booth were brought to the office’s attention for the first time by The Bloom Firm after both former employees had left employment by the family office and engaged legal counsel," he continued. "As soon as The Bloom Firm presented these allegations, the family office engaged Munger, Tolles & Olson, an outside law firm, to conduct an investigation of all allegations made by The Bloom Firm to determine whether the claims have merit."

"The investigation is ongoing," said LaBolt. "Mr. Booth is on administrative leave pending the completion of this investigation.”

It's worth noting the timing of the story, which appeared just as Zuckerberg was facing a critical leadership vote at Facebook's Thursday shareholder meeting.

Thanks to his ironclad control over the company that he founded, which was embedded in the company's ownership structure during its 2012 IPO, removing Mark Zuckerberg as CEO or chairman of Facebook presents several insurmountable obstacles. But as public frustration with the social media giant continues to fester, inspiring calls by politicians and activists to break up the company, Zuckerberg easily survived a leadership vote on Thursday.

 

As we mentioned above, the story about Zuck's top security guard wasn't the only unflattering story about the company or Zuckerberg himself to emerge on Thursday. Buzzfeed published an extensive investigation in partnership with the Toronto Star which purported that Facebook's promised banning of white supremacist groups was haphazard and incomplete, and that, one month after it announced the ban (which was inspired by the Christchurch attacks), the company had not lived up to its commitments.

One computer science professor quoted by Buzzfeed as an "expert source" said Facebook likes to make sweeping PR pronouncements to signal its virtue - but often, it refuses to follow through.

"Facebook likes to make a PR move and say that they’re doing something but they don’t always follow up on that," Megan Squire, an Elon University computer science professor who researches online extremism, told a joint BuzzFeed News–Toronto Star investigation.

When approached by Buzzfeed for comment, Facebook insisted that it did follow through on its promise to ban hate groups. However, some of these groups may have returned to the platform, and booting them off again can feel like a game of whack-a-mole.

Kevin Chan, one of Facebook’s global policy directors, said while they proactively removed some hate groups, the company also relies on users, journalists, and other sources to report when banned personalities make it back on the platform.

Chan said that sometimes it may feel like whack-a-mole, but he considers it more of an arms race - with Facebook trying to get better at keeping listed hate groups off its platform, and those banned users figuring out new ways to find their way back online.

"Every time we are learning. Now, we presume they’re also learning...I think it’s really more of an arms race," Chan said.

"But the trend line is that it is going to get really hard for people to do this, so hard to the point where...there’s going to be so much friction in the system that they’re probably going to go somewhere else," he said.

And just last week, Facebook revealed that there are 2 billion fake accounts on its platform, nearly equivalent to the number of active users (roughly 2.4 billion).

At least shareholders can find solace in the fact that the company's shares have largely shaken off last year's slump - though, if the movement to break up the company or impose strict regulations continues to gain traction, shareholders might soon have a whole new set of near-term risks to worry about.