Facebook boycott drama, mark Zuckerberg wasted the opportunity to impress civil right leaders

The civil rights auditors hired by Facebook (FB) to look into its record to prioritize free speech above other values which was referred to as "tremendous setback" delivered a long scathing and indictment against the social media company. In the report submitted by the auditors, they criticized Facebook silence to several posts of the United States President, Donald Trump. This attitude, according to the auditors, clearly violates the media company's policies prohibiting voters suppression, incitement of violence, and hate speech. The auditor, among other things, revealed that Facebook provided a special forum for white nationalism and supremacy.


These reports were triggered by a series of complaints by civil rights experts that the media company promotes hatred. Some of these complaints date back to when the social network was used to organize a 2017 Neo-Nazi march in Chartlottesville, Va. The report revealed that from this period till now, Facebook has become more aggressive in handling hate groups. However, the media company handles free speeches with levity. As a result, this has undermined Facebook's good faith efforts to improve its service. 

Also, the auditor believes that the company bends and stretches its rule for powerful people. In this regard, Facebook claimed that it listens to experts before making any judgment call, however the auditor counter that the company does not do this during critical matters of free expression. 

“When you put free expression on top of every other consideration, I think civil rights considerations take more of a back seat,” said Laura Murphy, a civil rights lawyer, and independent consultant who led the two-year audit. Murphy worked with a team from civil rights law firm Relman Colfax, led by partner Megan Cacace.

According to the auditors, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO's unwavering position on the matter concerning free speeches is further isolating the media company. Mark has suffered a series of condemnations by thousands of employees who protested that at least one of Trump's posts should be left on the media. As it is, major advertising campaigns on "Stop Hate For Profit, " are further boycotting the media company. 

On Tuesday, some of the civil rights leaders who met with the CEO revealed that he is not ready to change. Currently, Facebook's counterparts in Silicon Valley including Reddit, Snapchat, and Twitch are taking a tougher measure policing Trump and his most extreme supporters.

On the ground of civil rights, the Facebook-commissioned report carries more weight than other criticism. This was because the media company grants the auditor extensive access to its system and execution, and it encompasses feedback from over 100 civil rights groups. However, even with the feedback, there is no guarantee that the company would change or adjust some of its practices. 

“Being a platform where everyone can make their voice heard is core to our mission, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for people to spread hate. It’s not,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a blog post in response to the report. “We have clear policies against hate — and we strive constantly to get better and faster at enforcing them.”

Facebook auditor's report and the ad boycott's meeting 


Facebook auditor's report arrived on Tuesday after a meeting between Facebook and the organizer of a fast-growing boycott currently having more than 1,000 advertisers. The organizer of the advertising campaign has made several demands of Facebook including hiring a top-level executive that would clear the ground of the company concerning critical issues like racism. The major reason for the demand is because the organizers found out that most of Facebook's decisions over hate speech were made by senior executives who lacked specific civil rights expertise and nuanced understandings of race. Hence the need for experts in civil rights to fill senior leadership positions. 

However, the timing of the report made ad boycott's organizers argue that Facebook is only trying to draw attention away from their demand. Although Facebook denied this, the organizer called the Tuesday meeting a "disappointing one." 

On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that it has taken down accounts that were discovered to be tied to Trump's long time friend and former campaign adviser, Roger Stone. According to Facebook, Roger violated the company's rule by using more than 100 accounts and pages to manipulate public debate. 

Furthermore, auditors faulted Facebook and revealed that Facebook policy decisions undermine civil rights progress. The auditors claimed that the company failed to create an improvement avenue for people of color. 

In one of Trump's posts about voting in May, he referred to the use of mail-in ballots in Nevada and Michigan “illegal” and “substantially fraudulent.”

Since mail-in ballots were lawful forms of voters' registration in both states, the auditors "vehemently expressed" their views to Facebook in the report. They claim that the post was prohibited by the company's voter interference policy because the policy is against false representation about voter registration methods. 

However, senior executives at Facebook found that the posts did not break the policy hence they ignore the conclusion reached by the auditor; this was also revealed in the report. Furthermore, the report revealed that the interpretation given to the post by the company's executive is that the president was accusing state officials of acting illegally. Since this is considered a permissible criticism, it is no violation. 

That “constrained reading” of its own rules “was both astounding and deeply troubling,” the auditors said, “hurtling [Facebook] down a slippery slope” in which simple and straightforward facts about voting can be freely misrepresented. 

“With only months left before a major election, this is deeply troublesome as misinformation, sowing racial division and calls for violence near elections can do great damage to our democracy,” the auditors wrote.

The auditor also questioned Facebook's decision to allow another May post by Trump where he wrote“when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The auditor, who are also civil rights leaders believed that this post appears to encourage law enforcement agencies to treat protesters and looters unlawfully. Facebook's choice to leave the post further aggravated the boycott.

When the same post was made on twitter, Twitter added a fact-checking and warning label to it. Although Facebook has also developed its own fact-checking label, the auditors said this concession is not enough.


What Led To Facebook Research


According to Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, deputy senior campaign director at Color of Change, one of the groups behind the ad boycott, civil rights experts started their inquiry into Facebook as far back as 2015 when self-proclaimed whites nationalists started attacking black activists on the platform.

Later in 2017, far-right extremists created an event page on Facebook to promote the Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Va. The march was attended by different people including the self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis. However, the event later became bloody when white supremacy drove his car into the protesters. 

Following this event, Facebook faced a series of pressure from civil rights groups and eventually banned terms such as white nationalism. The company also took down accounts owned by far-right leaders like Alex, Jones, and Milo Yiannopoulos. However, Civil rights leaders claimed that Facebook was very slow in acting. 

This attitude is also evident in how the company reacted to a violent far-right movement known as the boogaloo that was flourishing on the platform this year. Civil rights experts revealed that despite their numerous requests to remove the group, it was not until last week that Facebook took action. 

Added to this, the civil rights group revealed that Trump's post on looting already had 200,000 clicks before it was removed. 

Vanita Gupta, president, and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said that work is increasingly critical in the light of all that is going on in the country including the pandemic and the current protest against racism and marginalization. 

“There is so much at stake at this moment for the platform to get it right, for our democracy and for our communities,” she said. “The work is going to continue. We’re going to continue to press, to push to make these changes even after the final report comes out.”


Some Notable Movement Made By Facebook


  • The auditors commend facebook for its notable movements including creating policies that frown against interfering with voting processes and census.
  • Also, the company has made a historical settlement over discrimination in its ad targeting system.
  • Facebook also created a target of increasing the number of black executives by 30 percent over the next five years.

However, the report says Facebook still has a long way to go in incorporating civil rights in its approach. 

List of companies that are boycotting Facebook

  • The North Face

  • REI

  • Hershey

  • Ben & Jerry's

  • Levi's

  • Unilever

  • Honda

  • Eddie Bauer

  • Verizon

  • Coca-Cola

  • Starbucks

  • Lulu lemon

  • Verizon

  • Denny's

  • Patagonia

  • Magnolia Pictures

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