Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on May 1 in San Jose. (Photo/JTA-Getty Images-Justin Sullivan)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the 2018 F8 Facebook Developers conference in San Jose. (Photo/JTA-Getty Images-Justin Sullivan)

S.F. supervisors condemn Zuckerberg name on hospital

Several members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are not happy with Mark Zuckerberg.

So displeased, in fact, that on Thursday, a three-member subcommittee approved a resolution condemning the naming of San Francisco’s General Hospital after the Jewish tech billionaire. The resolution will now move onto the full board.

Formerly known as San Francisco General Hospital — the city’s oldest, dating to 1872 — the facility earned its name change in 2015 after a $75 million donation from the Facebook CEO and his wife, a physician. It was “the largest private gift from an individual to a public hospital in the country,” the hospital said.

Today the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center cares for about 20 percent of the city’s population, serving patients speaking more than 20 languages, according to the organization.

The Board of Supervisors greenlit the naming agreement five years ago, to “remain in place for 50 years.” Mayor Ed Lee signed it on March 10, 2015.

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in 2016. (Photo/Wikimedia-LuisVilla)
Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center in 2016. (Photo/Wikimedia-LuisVilla)

But this week, citing a litany of ills brought on by Facebook — from allegations that the social network is endangering public health by allowing the spread of misinformation related to the Covid-19 pandemic, to reports that it powers hate speech across the globe — Supervisors Gordon Mar and Matt Haney, neither of whom were on the board in 2015, are now rebuking the city’s benefactors and the decision to name the public facility after them.

“San Francisco’s only public hospital should not bear the name of a person responsible for endangering the public health in our country and around the world,” said Mar during the Thursday meeting of the Government Audit and Oversight Committee. The name should be condemned, he said, “because the facts condemn Facebook. And Mr. Zuckerberg refuses to take responsibility.”

Zuckerberg’s philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, referred a request for comment to the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

In a statement to J., the foundation said it was “disappointed in attempts” to condemn the hospital name, “especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when the impact of their gift has never been greater.”

The committee’s resolution lays out a laundry list of what the lawmakers view as democracy-endangering, privacy-shattering, public health-harming and otherwise world-destabilizing effects Facebook has unleashed around the globe.

Among them: a 2018 report that the British right-wing consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was able to tap into the profile data of more than 50 million users without their consent; reports of the platform being used to incite violence in Myanmar and hate speech in India; claims by businesses and nonprofits, including the Anti-Defamation League, that the company monetizes hateful and bigoted speech in the United States and elsewhere; and Facebook’s stated decision to allow lies in political ads.

Mar said the evidence in the resolution “speaks for itself.”

Supervisor Gordon Mar during the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Dec. 3, 2020 meeting. (Screenshot/Gabe Stutman)
Supervisor Gordon Mar during the San Francisco Board of Supervisors oversight committee meeting, Dec. 3, 2020. (Screenshot/Gabe Stutman)

Facebook has made efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 misinformation. In March, the company announced a $100 million investment in the journalism industry. On Nov. 30, Zuckerberg spoke live with presidential adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci to discuss progress on vaccines. And this week, Facebook announced it would be removing false claims about vaccines from its site.

Kim Meredith, CEO of the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation, criticized the resolution during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“In 2015 Dr. Priscilla Chan, with her husband, made a heartfelt gift of $75 million,” Meredith said, describing Chan’s connection to the hospital, where she worked as a pediatrics resident. “She loves the hospital and the community it supports.”

Meredith warned that the measure, if passed, could produce a “chilling effect” on philanthropy in the city.

Most public speakers expressed support for the resolution.

“San Francisco General was built by the people of San Francisco long before Zuckerberg was born,” said Lori Liederman. “General is the people’s hospital,” she said, naming health care providers, administrators and engineers who work there, and the construction workers who built it. “These are who we should honor. Not one ultra-rich, amoral egotist.”

The resolution also calls for establishing “clear standards” for naming rights on public buildings in the future. It will now move onto the full board for consideration.

San Francisco General is not the city’s only hospital named for a Jewish tech billionaire. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital was renamed for Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff following a $100 million donation announced in 2010.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.