Groups behind the recent advertising boycott of Facebook and Instagram today left a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg with no commitment from the company that it will do more to combat hate speech on its platforms.
Leaders from Color of Change, the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League all met with Facebook founder and ceo Zuckerberg, as well as chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and chief product officer Christopher Cox, after Zuckerberg and Sandberg pushed for a meeting not long after the Stop Hate for Profit boycott started late last month, as first reported by WWD. But even after waiting two weeks to meet with the groups, they said Facebook executives are still not interested in meeting the demands of the organizers.
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“It was abundantly clear in our meeting today that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform,” CoC, the NAACP and the ADL said in a joint statement after the meeting. “Instead of actually responding to the demands of dozens of the platform’s largest advertisers that have joined the #StopHateForProfit ad boycott during the month of July, Facebook wants us to accept the same old rhetoric, repackaged as a fresh response.”
Nevertheless, a Facebook spokeswoman said after the meeting that the results of an independent civil rights audit will be released tomorrow. It is the third and final installment of a review process that began in 2018, led by Laura Murphy, formerly of the ACLU.
“This meeting was an opportunity for us to hear from the campaign organizers and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform,” the Facebook spokeswoman said. “They want Facebook to be free of hate speech and so do we. That’s why it’s so important that we work to get this right.”
The spokeswoman also reiterated that Facebook has “invested billions in people and technology to keep hate off our platform” and created new policies on voter and census misinformation on the platform that largely targets people of color. Other actions Facebook has taken recently include a separate audit of its method of content moderation. Currently, the company largely uses AI to find certain words and phrases and flags content for review by a team of 35,000 dedicated people.
But 35,000 people compared to Facebook’s 1.7 billion daily active users seems paltry. And to leaders of CoC, the NAACP and the ADL, Facebook’s response during the meeting was simply more of the same, or “tweaks around the edges,” as the leaders put it.
“The only recommendation they even attempted to address is hiring a civil rights position, but were unable to commit to the crucial piece of the position being at the c-suite level or what the requirements for the position will be,” they added.
As for their other demands, Zuckerberg’s responses were said to be tepid at best. The asked about automatic recourse for advertisers that have content show up alongside “hateful content” and why Facebook continues to recommend “hateful groups” to users. They requested a way for users who see hateful content to connect with a representative of Facebook, as well as “common sense content moderation policies and practices,” both of which were refused.
“And he [Zuckerberg] did not offer any tangible plans on how Facebook will address the rampant disinformation and violent conspiracies on its platform,” the group leaders said.
Since the boycott started last month, calling for advertisers and brands to pull all ad spend on Facebook and Instagram for the month of July to show their concern over hate speech on the platform, particularly that directed at Black people, as well as misinformation around voting and politics, nearly 1,000 companies in the U.S. and abroad have joined. Some major advertisers are in the group, like Unilever, which said it’s pulling spend from Facebook and Instagram, as well as Twitter, for the rest of the year.
But many more advertisers have yet to join. Facebook is estimated to have some eight million advertisers on its platforms. And even among those that have joined the boycott, their collective spend amounts to millions of dollars, compared to the nearly $71 billion Facebook makes in ad revenue annually.
Even still, the Stop Hate for Profit boycott has created some negative p.r. for Facebook, likely leading to the executives’ early desire for a meeting. Given all of the groups leading the boycott have met with Zuckerberg before and were not satisfied with responses on the issue of radicalized hate speech in particular, leaders of the organizations held off on meeting until this week.
But Facebook had started doing some damage control in the meantime. Zuckerberg said publicly that Facebook would undergo another civil rights audit and that the company would start labeling “newsworthy” content that promoted violence, although the posts will not be removed.
Last week, as WWD reported, Facebook’s Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions, led a mass call with advertisers. Some on the call took what was said largely in the same manner as the civil rights groups took their Tuesday meeting, namely an explanation that Facebook has no intention of making any significant changes to its content policy.
Even the post that largely started the Stop the Hate for Profit boycott, in which President Trump wrote “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in regard to growing protests over the police killing of George Floyd, was manually assessed and approved to be posted, as Facebook executives told advertisers on last week’s call.
The executives took the position that there is simply no “perfect fix” for hate speech and that it’s already made major strides in the last few years, since its first civil rights audit that led to it banning for the first time white supremacist groups. Facebook told advertisers that it now catches around 90 percent of all hate speech through its AI, up from just 20 percent two years ago.
So it seems to have come as no surprise to the leaders of CoC, the NAACP and the ADL that they left a new meeting with Zuckerberg and Sandberg feeling it was essentially fruitless.
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