6 groups, including ADL, urge companies to pause Facebook ads to combat hate
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6 groups, including ADL, urge companies to pause Facebook ads to combat hate

ADL chief says social media giant has ‘repeatedly failed’ to act against bigotry on its platform; NAACP head: Zuckerberg profits from ‘suppression’ of black voters

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, May 2, 2017 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, May 2, 2017 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Anti-Defamation League joined five other US civil rights organizations in appealing to companies to stop advertising on Facebook in July, in a bid to pressure the social media giant to remove hate content.

In a statement Wednesday, the ADL accused Facebook of having a “long history of allowing racist, violent and veritably false content to run rampant on its platform,” which it said the company was generating ad revenue from.

The campaign is directed at large companies, though the statement didn’t name any specific firms.

Also taking part in the campaign are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Sleeping Giants, Color Of Change, Free Press and Common Sense.

“We have long seen how Facebook has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives. When this hate spreads online it causes tremendous harm and also becomes permissible offline,” ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was quoted saying in the statement.

Greenblatt said the groups had made previous appeals to Facebook, but that it has “repeatedly failed” to act.

“We hope this campaign finally shows Facebook how much their users and their advertisers want them to make serious changes for the better,” he said.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson in Boston, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Derrick Johnson, the head of the NAACP, accused Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of “complacency” in fighting disinformation and profiting from “suppression” of black voters.

“Facebook remains unwilling to take significant steps to remove political propaganda from its platform,” Johnson said, according to the statement. “It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent, but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy.”

Johnson added: “Such actions will upend the integrity of our elections as we head into 2020… While we recognize the value that Facebook provides in connecting people of color with one another, we call into question a platform that profits from the suppression of Black votes or Black voices.”

The appeal came as Facebook launched a widespread effort to boost US voter turnout and provide authoritative information about voting — just as it doubles down on its policy allowing politicians like US President Donald Trump to post false information on the same subject.

The social media giant is launching a “Voting Information Center” on Facebook and Instagram that will include details on registering to vote, polling places and voting by mail, it said. It will draw the information from state election officials and local election authorities.

The information hub, which will be prominently displayed on Facebook news feeds and on Instagram later in the summer, is similar to the coronavirus information center the company launched earlier this year in an attempt to elevate facts and authoritative sources of information on COVID-19.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University in Washington on October 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Facebook and Zuckerberg continue to face criticism for not removing or labeling posts by Trump that that spread misinformation about voting by mail and, many said, encouraged violence against protesters.

“I know many people are upset that we’ve left the President’s posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” Zuckerberg wrote earlier this month.

Facebook’s free speech stance may have more to do with not wanting to alienate Trump and his supporters while keeping its business options open, critics suggest.

Dipayan Ghosh, co-director of the Platform Accountability Project at Harvard Kennedy School, said Facebook “doesn’t want to tick off a whole swath of people who really believe the president and appreciate” his words.

In addition to the voting hub, Facebook will also now let people turn off political and social issue ads that display the “paid for by” designation, meaning a politician or political entity paid for it. The company announced this option in January but it is going into effect now.

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