It’s been an especially hot summer for Mark Zuckerberg.
At the end of June, my organization, Free Press, joined eight other organizations to launch the #StopHateForProfit campaign. We called on major brands to pause advertising on Facebook in July to protest the company’s failure to stop racism and other forms of bigotry from running rampant on the network.
The #StopHateForProfit boycott launched on July 1. By then more than 1,000 advertisers had agreed to pause their ads for the month, including major brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, REI, Starbucks, Target, Unilever and Verizon. That list has grown to date to 1,144 companies worldwide.
These numbers build on years of incredible work by hundreds of activists, advocates and academics from marginalized communities who have long called on Facebook to curtail the spread of hate and disinformation. The revolutionary organizing of the Movement for Black Lives following the killing of George Floyd provided a final, urgent push.
Zuckerberg continues to feel the heat from advertisers, but what’s even more striking is the intense pressure from racial-justice and civil-rights advocates who refuse to let Facebook off easy until our demands are fully met.
These include the company 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 disinformation; putting an end to amplifying and recommending white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and others who spread disinformation; and changing the company’s terms so they are in sync with the policy recommendations made by the Change the Terms initiative (which Free Press co-founded).
The principal boycott organizers have experienced firsthand harassment, religious bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia and other forms of hate both online and in real life. We’ve witnessed organized efforts to misinform our communities about voting rights, the pandemic and other issues that affect the health and safety of our families and our democracy.
Earlier this month, I joined the leaders of ADL, Color Of Change and the NAACP at a meeting with Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook execs. We came away disappointed by their indifference to our demands — and shocked by their apathy toward those who are on the receiving end of online hate.
Our meeting made one thing clear: Zuckerberg has an extremely limited understanding of systemic racism and the ways it has infiltrated his company. This was confirmed the day after our meeting, when Facebook released the final portion of an independent civil-rights audit, which found that the company has allowed hate speech and disinformation to flourish — and that its failures to address these problems caused “significant setbacks for civil rights.”
In new polling released Thursday by Accountable Tech and GQR, 60% of registered voters said they believe that Facebook hasn’t shown “a serious commitment to combating racism.” Of the 1,000 people polled, 67% said removing white supremacists from the platform should be a top priority.
Strong majorities of respondents agreed that Facebook does more harm to society than good (73%) and that Zuckerberg “has too much power as the CEO and majority shareholder” (57%).
Many of Facebook’s own employees are frustrated with Zuckerberg for catering to political power in ways that silence and endanger marginalized people. Dozens resigned following Zuckerberg’s appalling decision to leave up a post by Presiden Donald Trump in which he appears to call for state violence against people protesting the police killing of George Floyd.
Facebook’s chief has a lot to answer for as he prepares for a congressional grilling Wednesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee and alongside other tech CEOs. His company has failed on so many fronts. Facebook has even failed at its own mission “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” The polling shows that a clear majority of U.S. voters believe that Facebook in fact divides communities and drives people apart.
This is no surprise for many of us who for years have been urging Facebook to do a better job of stopping hate and disinformation and to be more accountable for the harms it’s inflicting on historically oppressed people. Initially, we gave the social-media giant the benefit of the doubt. No more.
It’s time for Facebook, and all of Big Tech, to #StopHateForProfit. It’s time for these companies to adopt the Change the Terms coalition’s model corporate policies to disrupt hate. And it’s time for Congress to take a deeper look at how it can hold Facebook accountable for the profound harms it has caused.