June 24, 2021

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Civil rights groups call meeting ‘a disappointment’

A meeting between civil rights leaders and Facebook executives apparently did little to quash tensions between groups leading a widespread advertiser boycott and the company. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook leaders met on Tuesday with leaders from the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change and Free Press, which are four of the groups that have led the call for what is now a widespread advertiser boycott of Facebook’s platform. In mid-June, they launched the campaign with Sleeping Giants and Common Sense, urging Facebook to do more to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation. Leaders said the meeting, held via video conference, ran a little over an hour on Tuesday afternoon. 

“The meeting we just left was a disappointment,” said Color Of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson during a press conference held via Zoom following the meeting. “They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on Tuesday morning said he and other leaders planned to ask Facebook to put civil rights leadership inside its C-suite, and ask for regular, independent audits published on how they’re dealing with hate content, among other requests.

We had 10 demands and literally we went through the 10 and we didn’t get commitments or timeframes or clear outcomes,” he said during the press conference following the meeting with Facebook. “We expected specifics, and that’s not what we heard.”

He added that the groups feel their asks are simple for the platform: “All Mark needs to do, all Facebook needs to do, is once and for all say ‘White supremacy, racism, anti-semitism, anti-Muslim hate, xenophobia — once and for all, it has to stop, and that stops now,'” Greenblatt said

Free Press also addressed the meeting in a press release. 

“#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,” Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said in an emailed statement. “I’m deeply disappointed that Facebook still refuses to hold itself accountable to its users, its advertisers and society at large.”

“Facebook approached our meeting today like it was nothing more than a PR exercise,” she said. “But boycott coalition leaders and advertisers understand that the #StopHateForProfit effort is about the lives, safety and freedom of our communities.” 

A Facebook spokesman said the meeting was an opportunity for the company to hear from campaign organizers and reaffirm its commitment to combating hate on its services.

“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 spokesman said in a statement. “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.”

On Tuesday ahead of the meeting, Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post that the meeting with organizers with #StopHateForProfit would be followed by a meeting with other civil rights leaders, including Vanita Gupta from the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, Sherrilyn Ifill from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Laura W. Murphy, Facebook’s Civil Rights Auditor. She also said the company would release an independent civil rights audit of its policies and practices on Wednesday. 

In the post, she said Facebook is making changes “not for financial reasons or advertiser pressure” but because it’s “the right thing to do.” 

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