Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY
Published 3:06 p.m. ET June 17, 2020 | Updated 9:25 a.m. ET June 18, 2020
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A coalition of civil rights groups that includes the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League is calling on major advertisers to yank their marketing messages from Facebook in July to protest the social network’s failure to remove hate speech.
The campaign, coming as the nation grapples with difficult conversations about systemic racism spurred by the death of George Floyd in police custody, follows years of private discussions with the social media company that activists say resulted in little change.
With the November presidential election fast approaching, civil rights groups say they are concerned that Facebook is not prepared for a possible repeat of 2016 in which Russian agents targeted Black Americans with the goal of suppressing votes to benefit Trump.
They also say Facebook has allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice and has silenced Black users for calling out racism while not adequately shielding them from online threats. Facebook has also failed to remove Holocaust denial as a form of hate speech, the ADL says.
A 2019 ADL survey found that Facebook was the online platform where most Americans using social media reported experiencing hate and harassment. More than 55% of Facebook users reported hate and harassment on the platform, the survey found.
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“Today, we are asking all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July,” reads a full-page ad the groups took out in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.”
Added online racial justice group Color of Change: “Corporations that decline our call to suspend Facebook ads will also be staying silent in what has finally become a global charge to end anti-Blackness in every setting of our lives, including on the world’s largest social media platform.”
Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg responded Wednesday, telling reporters that the company stands “emphatically” against hate speech.
“We have the internet’s most advanced system for removing hate speech content from our services,” he said, noting Facebook took down 10 million posts in the last quarter, 88% of which were removed before they were reported to the company.
“We need to do more, we need to move faster, but we are making significant progress in the right direction,” Clegg said.
Facebook is coming under countervailing pressures from the political right and left in how it moderates content ahead of the presidential election, Clegg said. Last week, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee in November, urged his supporters to sign a petition to force Facebook to stop disinformation and hold politicians, including President Trump, accountable for spreading lies.
The role Facebook plays in elections is getting more scrutiny following Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to leave up a post in which Trump called protesters thugs and warned: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Clegg says a Justice Department proposal to roll back legal protections for online platforms would result in “less speech of all kinds appearing online.”
“The Trump administration is demanding that we stop or reduce censoring content, that we fact-check less material. Civil rights groups and the Biden campaign are demanding we censor and/or fact-check more. Policymakers are just going to have to decide what rules they want for campaigns and for the role of the internet, particularly in times of electoral campaigns,” Clegg said. “In the absence of those rules, we will continue to take our responsibilities seriously and to strike the right balance without sacrificing the safety of our community or the ability of people to express their voice at the polls.”
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