Facebook Boycott Organisers Disappointed With Zuckerberg Meeting

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No concessions. Organisers of the advertising boycott of Facebook left disappointed after meeting CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives

The organisers of the advertising boycott of Facebook have been left disappointed following a meeting with senior executives from the platform, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign has been organised by a number of US civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and Color of Change.

The campaign comes on the black of the killing of George Floyd in the United States, and the subsequent protests over racism. Last minute talks between Facebook and advertisers last week had failed to halt the one month advertising boycott of the platform by multinational firms.

Advertising boycott

Matters were not helped when it was reported last week that Zuckerberg had taken a somewhat dismissive attitude to the growing advertising boycott of the platform, saying “advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.’

The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ advertising boycott of Facebook has grown rapidly in the past couple of weeks.

Over 1,000 well known brands are suspending their advertising on the platform, including Ben and Jerry’s, Ford, Adidas, HP, Coca Cola, North Face, Verizon, Unilever and Starbucks.

In order to avert the boycott, Facebook executives including Carolyn Everson, VP of global business solutions, and Neil Potts, public policy director, had held at least two meetings with boycott organisers last week, but the Facebook executives reportedly offered no new details on how they would tackle hate speech.

The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign has 11 demands for Facebook, which includes allowing people who experience severe harassment to speak with a Facebook employee and giving refunds to brands whose ads show up next to offensive content that is later removed.

Facebook had already indicated it would submit to an audit of its hate speech controls.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg had asked to meet with the campaign organizers along with Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

But the civil rights groups behind the campaign insisted that Mark Zuckerberg also attend any meeting, and last week the company confirmed that Zuckerberg would join the proposed meeting.

Disappointing meeting

That meeting has now taken place, but the boycott organisers called the meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and other executives “disappointing”.

But the company offered little in terms of concrete solutions, Rashad Robinson of the Color of Change, was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying.

“Facebook showed up to this meeting expecting a grade A for attendance,” he said. “Attendance alone is not enough. At this point we were expecting some very clear answers to the recommendations we put on the table, and we did not get that. We did not get to the heart of these problems.”

Indeed, the organisers had been demanding that someone with civil rights expertise be put on Facebook’s board of directors. Other demands include Facebook submitting to regular third-party audits of hate and misinformation, and removing the political exemptions that allow some public figures to bypass hate speech rules on the platform.

The campaign also demands Facebook find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism, the Guardian reported.

But it seems that Facebook was not in the mood to give in to any of the demands by the campaigners.

No concessions

Indeed, Facebook declined to commit to any specific policies or timelines and declined to commit to any of the 11 measures put forward by the coalition, the groups said in a press conference following the meeting.

The only concession from Facebook was that it might consider hiring for a civil rights position at the company, but they were unable to commit to placing that person at a high level or in the C-suite.

“‘Almost’ isn’t good enough when we are talking about fighting hate,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, which is part of the coalition was qupted as saying. “Facebook should have a zero-tolerance policy on intolerance like every other company in America.”

Facebook is “grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement”, a spokeswoman reportedly said on Tuesday, citing a civil rights audit the company is releasing on Wednesday as a gesture of its move towards more transparency.

She also noted the company had banned more than 250 white supremacist organisations and created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference.

“This meeting was an opportunity for us to hear from the campaign organisers and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform,” she said. “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.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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