San Francisco city officials are considering reversing the decision to name a local public hospital after Mark Zuckerberg, a move supported by the hospital's nurses and doctors.
Reactions against Facebook's policies continue
The doctors and nurses at the hospital have been speaking out against the co-founder and CEO of Facebook since the hospital changed its name in 2015.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Gordon Mar presented a resolution to the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday that would condemn Zuckerberg's name. The resolution also calls on the city to establish clear rules on naming rights that reflect "the values of the city and its commitment to affirm and defend human rights, dignity and social and racial justice.
Doctors and nurses at the hospital have been campaigning for the hospital to abandon the name since its inception in 2015, following a $75 million donation from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, revealed a pediatrician who worked at the hospital. Over the years, hospital staff have expressed concern that the hospital is associated with Facebook and all of its issues and controversies, including, but not limited to, those related to privacy, unethical research, dissemination of false information, hate speech and misinformation.
They wrote opinion pieces in local newspapers, signed petitions, distributed buttons that read "Zuck off" and circulated letters. During a demonstration in 2018, nurses brought a roll of blue tape to the large metal sign at the main entrance of the hospital, completely concealing the name "Zuckerberg".
Although the protests have subsided as health care workers struggle to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition to the name is still strong. Hospital physician Robert Brody circulated an e-mail last month asking hospital staff to consider removing "Zuckerberg" from e-mail signatures, presentations and research papers, according to an article on Stat news' U.S. health information website. He promotes the idea with the slogan "X to the Z". Dr. Brody wrote in the email:
"Whether we like it or not, Zuckerberg's name is linked to our institution. In a desperate future of institutional funding, it is unlikely that our leaders will support any effort to change the official name to San Francisco General Hospital." But that doesn't mean that we who work here should use the name or the letter Z,"
The hospital's director of communications, Brent Andrew, said the hospital is not considering a name change. The hospital released a statement saying that "the couple's $75 million gift in 2015 has enabled the hospital to acquire leading-edge technology that we use every day to save patients' lives, and by providing ongoing support for renovations, patient care improvements and education.
However, Andrew noted that the city's supervisory board is actually the body that has the authority to appoint the hospital. In fact, it was the board itself that approved Zuckerberg's name in 2015.
The supervisors at the time, who are almost entirely different from the supervisors on the current board, approved the name change resolution. With this resolution, the board agreed to change the name from "San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center" to "Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center". However, in practice, the hospital is almost exclusively known as "Zuckerberg San Francisco General and Trauma Center" or simply ZSFG. The resolution also states that the new name "shall remain in place for 50 years".
It is not specified whether the Board of Directors can break this agreement. In the context of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, another board member, Aaron Peskin, asked the city attorney to define a procedure for removing Zuckerberg's name from the hospital, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The result of this investigation has not been made public. However, Andrew indicated that the board of directors had the authority to change the name.
Meanwhile, opposition to the name continues at San Francisco Hospital. Mike Dingle, a retired orderly who invented the slogan and buttons "Zuck off", suggested that he was working on "Zuck off" face masks. And the hospital staff protest is just one of the fronts of opposition Zuckerberg and Facebook are currently facing. More than 1,000 companies have stopped buying ads on the social media platform as part of the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign. The campaign accuses Facebook of having "a long history of allowing racist, violent and false content on its platform".
In addition, 260 scientists funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) or the CZ Biohub wrote an open letter to Zuckerberg last month asking him to improve Facebook's policies on hate speech and misinformation. they wrote:
"The spread of deliberate misinformation and confrontational language is directly contrary to the mission of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which uses technology to help solve some of our most difficult challenges, from preventing and eradicating disease to improving learning experiences for children, reforming the criminal justice system and building a more inclusive, just and healthy future for all,"