WASHINGTON — On Tuesday afternoon, leaders of four of the organizations coordinating the #StopHateForProfit advertising boycott met with top executives from Facebook, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, CPO Chris Cox, VP for Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg and others.
Facebook called for the meeting, attended by Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González, NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson, Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, amidst the ongoing boycott. Nearly 1,000 companies have agreed to pause advertising with the social-media giant in response to Facebook’s failure to curtail the spread of hate and disinformation across its platform.
During the meeting, the campaign’s leaders discussed the comprehensive set of demands put forth by the boycott effort. These include hiring a C-Suite level executive with civil-rights expertise to evaluate company products and policies with regard to discrimination, bias and hate; submitting to regular and transparent third-party audits of identity-based hate and misinformation; and changing the company’s “community standards” so they are in sync with the policy recommendations made by the Change the Terms initiative, which Free Press co-founded.
Facebook’s leadership also announced their plans to release the final section of the company’s civil-rights audit, which they claimed takes a deeper look into Facebook’s practices and progress on a wide range of racial-justice issues. González did not receive a copy of the audit prior to the meeting. The last time Facebook released an update on its civil-rights audit, in July of 2019, the company declined to adopt many of the auditor’s recommendations.
In the three weeks since the launch of the #StopHateForProfit initiative, major brands including Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola, Ford, HP, Honda, Levi Strauss, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Unilever and Verizon have joined the boycott.
Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González made the following statement:
“#StopHateForProfit didn’t hear anything today to convince us that Zuckerberg and his colleagues are taking action. Instead of committing to a timeline to root out hate and disinformation on Facebook, the company’s leaders delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands.
“I’m deeply disappointed that Facebook still refuses to hold itself accountable to its users, its advertisers and society at large. I was hoping to see deep humility and reflection about the outsized role that Facebook plays in shaping beliefs, opinions and behavior, and the many harms it’s caused and facilitated in real life. Instead we saw more dialogue and no action.
“These grave harms include the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, for which the UN found Facebook played a “determining” role; the thousands of paid political ads that dehumanize and stoke fear about immigrants and Brown people that use the same language the El Paso shooter used to justify his murder of 22 people at a local Walmart; the unchecked call from President Trump for law enforcement to shoot Black people; the armed protests at mosques organized on Facebook event pages; and the rampant white-supremacist organizing and recruiting operation that remains on the platform to this day.
“Facebook approached our meeting today like it was nothing more than a PR exercise. But boycott coalition leaders and advertisers understand that the #StopHateForProfit effort is about the lives, safety and freedom of our communities.
“This isn’t the first time our organizations have asked Facebook to clean up its act. We’ve seen over and over again how it will do anything to duck accountability by firing up its powerful PR machine and trying to spin the news. We stand with truth and justice, and have been through this enough times to know when Facebook is trying to play us. Often that looks like policies that look OK on their face but are unenforced or underenforced. For instance, last year Facebook pledged to curtail the spread of white nationalism over its platforms. Yet today I can log into Facebook and find groups that are dedicated to restoring symbols of the Confederacy and the violence and bigotry they represent, and Islamophobia still has a home in both private and public Facebook groups.
“This isn’t over. We will continue to expand the boycott until Facebook takes our demands seriously. We won’t be distracted by Facebook’s spin today or any day. Mark, Sheryl and their colleagues have much work to do to make Facebook a better place for everyone, and they need to get it done now.”