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Civil rights groups call Facebook meeting a ‘disappointment’


  • Facebook’s top executives met Tuesday with civil rights groups, hoping to address their concerns about the company’s approach to hate speech on its platform.
  • But the groups called the meeting a “disappointment” and said it became clear that Facebook is “is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform.”
  • “We didn’t get commitments or time frames or clear outcomes. We expected specifics and that’s not what we heard,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on a call with reporters.
  • Facebook told Business Insider it will release a civil rights audit started in 2018, and has invested resources into combating hate, made adjustments to its policies, and banned hate groups.
  • The groups called for advertisers to boycott Facebook last month, saying the company has been unwilling to make substantive changes for years — and more than 500 companies have joined.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook still hasn’t convinced civil rights groups that it’s doing enough to combat hate speech on its platform.

On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Chief Product Officer Chris Cox met with the leaders of the NAACP, Color of Change, Free Press, and the Anti-Defamation League in an attempt to address their concerns over its hate speech policies.

Following the hour-long virtual meeting, civil rights groups called it a “disappointment” and said in a statement that it was clear Facebook “is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform.”

“Today we saw little and heard just about nothing,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a call with reporters Tuesday, adding: “We didn’t get commitments or time frames or clear outcomes. we expected specifics and that’s not what we heard.”

Last month, the groups organized a massive Facebook ad boycott in response to its inaction on controversial posts by President Donald Trump that more than 500 companies have since joined. Multiple discussions with Facebook executives ultimately broke down, with the boycott organizers demanding that Zuckerberg personally attend because “he is the ultimate authority,” Reuters reported.

But even with its top leadership in the room, Facebook wasn’t able to persuade the groups that it’s taking strong enough action.

The groups said in a statement that they discussed 10 demands with Facebook, which included items such as: a C-suite level executive with civil rights expertise, public and independent civil rights audits, changes to Facebook’s  moderation policies around hate speech and misinformation, refunds to advertisers whose ads are shown next to hate speech, and live customer support for users experience hate or harassment.

Facebook only partially addressed hiring a civil rights expert and “offered no attempt” to address the other nine demands, the groups said.

“Instead of actually responding to the demands of dozens of the platform’s largest advertisers that have joined the #StopHateForProfit ad boycott during the month of July, Facebook wants us to accept the same old rhetoric, repackaged as a fresh response,” the groups said.

“This meeting was an opportunity for us to hear from the campaign organizers and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform. 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,” a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider, adding that it has taken a number of steps, including investing people and financial resources into combatting hate speech, introducing new policies to address misinformation, and banning hate groups.

Facebook also plans to release its civil rights audit Wednesday — which began in 2018 — but Sandberg said in a post Tuesday that the company won’t follow every recommendation.

Facebook is facing a growing chorus of critics who say it needs to do more to combat racism and hate speech on its platform. After CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his decision not to take action on Trump’s posts, employees at Facebook as well as Zuckerberg’s philanthropic initiative revolted, and The Washington Post reported last week that Facebook has crafted exemptions for the president going as far back as 2015.

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