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Facebook fails to placate civil rights groups leading ad boycott

  • Facebook met with the civil rights groups leading an ad boycott on Tuesday.
  • The groups went in with ten demands, of which Facebook only addressed one: hiring a C-suite level civil rights exec.
  • Facebook said it would make the hire but wouldn’t commit to making the position C-suite.
  • The civil rights groups branded the meeting a “disappointment”.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook tried on Tuesday, July 8, to placate the civil rights groups leading an ad boycott against it — and failed.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Chris Cox, chief product officer, met with leaders from the NAACP, Color of Change, Free Press, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Tuesday for an hour to discuss the Stop Hate For Profit campaign the groups collectively launched. More than 500 advertisers have so far joined the boycott.

The groups had ten demands, and according to a press statement from Color of Change, Facebook only addressed one of them: that the company hire a C-suite civil rights lead. And even there, Facebook’s response was too superficial to impress.

“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,” Color of Change said.

Facebook on Wednesday confirmed it was hiring for the position of civil rights lead in a blog post announcing the results a two-year civil rights audit, but did not say whether the position would be C-suite.

“We’re beginning the process of bringing much-needed civil rights expertise in-house, starting with a commitment to hire a civil rights leader who will continue to push us on these issues internally, and embedding staff with civil rights expertise on core teams,” COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote.

“[Facebook] offered no attempt to respond to the other nine recommendations,” Color of Change added. The other nine recommendations were:

  • Submitting to regular third-person audits.
  • Promising to refund advertisers whose ads are shown next to misinformation or hateful content.
  • Committing to find and remove public and private groups advocating for white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism.
  • Adopting common-sense policy changes to stop the spread of hate speech.
  • Stop the recommendation of hateful groups.
  • Creating an internal mechanism to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review.
  • Fact-checking politicians to stop them spreading misinformation.
  • Creating expert teams to review reports of identity-based hate and harassment.
  • Giving users experiencing harrassment or hate speech the option to speak to a live Facebook employee.

The groups said in a press call that the meeting had been a “disappointment,” and that Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and Cox had been too vague to inspire any confidence.

“Today we saw little and heard just about nothing,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “We didn’t get commitments or time frames or clear outcomes. we expected specifics and that’s not what we heard,” he added.

“This meeting was an opportunity for us to hear from the campaign organizers and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform,” a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider.

“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. As a company, we have agreed to an independent civil rights audit which will be released today. We have invested billions in people and technology to keep hate off of our platform. We have created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference and have launched the largest voting information campaign in American history. We have banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations and are holding ourselves accountable by producing regular reports about our content moderation efforts. We know we will be judged by our actions not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement,” they added.

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