How the ADL went from working with Facebook to boycotting against it – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 6, 2020

(JTA) It was when Mark Zuckerberg said he would allow Holocaust denial on his platform that the Anti-Defamation League realized its partnership with Facebook wasnt working.The social media giant and the Jewish civil rights group had been working together for years to curb hate speech online. In October 2017, Facebook headlined a new ADL initiative to start a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab in collaboration with Silicon Valleys biggest companies.Then, nine months later, Zuckerberg told the tech site Recode that while he personally found Holocaust denial deeply offensive, he said, I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.

People who monitor antisemitism criticized Zuckerberg for what they saw as undeservedly giving antisemites the benefit of the doubt as if they were making an innocent mistake rather than propagating a deliberate lie. Thats when the ADL realized that Facebook wasnt going to change on its own and needed to be pressured.

Holocaust denial is something that weve been talking to Facebook about for I think its 11 years at this point, Daniel Kelley, associate director of the ADLs Center for Technology and Society, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Weve told them Holocaust denial is hate. It is not misinformation. And they have not only not changed, but in several instances doubled down on treating Holocaust denial as some form of misinformation.

So the ADL has changed tacks as Facebook, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives.

The campaign has attracted a growing list of leading brand names. More than 230 companies have signed onto the pledge, and last week Facebooks stock dipped more than 8%, though it has since rebounded.

Apparently shaken by the boycott, Zuckerberg has announced a series of changes to Facebooks hate speech policies, which he said come directly from feedback from the civil rights community. He also pledged to meet with the organizers of the boycott.

Im committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other, Zuckerberg wrote Friday in a Facebook post. But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and were committed to removing that no matter where it comes from.

Those moves have not lessened the ADLs commitment to pressuring the company, which makes nearly its entire $70 billion in annual revenue through ads.

Fighting tech companies is a change for Greenblatt, who came to the ADL job in 2015 following a career as a social entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Greenblatt founded a bottled water company that donated a portion of its proceeds to clean-water access, as well as All for Good, an open-source platform that aggregated volunteer opportunities online.

Under Greenblatt, the ADL increased its focus on tech, and at first tried to curb online hate through partnership. The group expanded its presence in Silicon Valley in 2016 and founded the Center for Technology and Society in 2017 to combat cyberhate. Greenblatt said he hoped to collaborate even closer on the threat with the tech industry.

Later that year, the ADL announced its partnership with four tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to create the Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. The idea was to work with the companies on technical solutions to improve detection and removal of hateful posts, with the ADL providing guidance on how to spot bigotry and address it.

But according to Kelley, the effort went nowhere. Facebook, he said, never acted on any of the advice provided by the ADL.

They were happy to sign onto a press release and to say, well, were working with ADL. We did have several meetings, Kelley said. Its the same story of us coming to the meeting with real ideas for how to approach the problems on their platform and them walking away not promising anything. We tried to work with them.

But Kelley said that while Facebook does release transparency reports, it does not give outside researchers access to the data, unlike Twitter. So he said theres no real way to confirm Facebooks claims of transparency.

Using the speech, the Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen compared Zuckerberg to a restaurateur gladly serving neo-Nazis.

If he owned a fancy restaurant and four neo-Nazis came goose-stepping into the dining room and were talking loudly about wanting to kill Jewish scum, would he serve them an elegant eight course meal? Or would tell them to get the f*** out of his restaurant? Cohen wrote. He has every legal right, indeed a moral duty, to tell them to get the f*** out of his restaurant.

I say, lets also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion, he said. Maybe its time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: You already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.

A wrinkle in this story came a few weeks before Cohens speech. Following the October attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the ADL accepted a $2.5 million donation from Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Greenblatt said, upon accepting the donation, that he was grateful for her commitment to fighting hate in all of its forms.

Facebooks mostly hands-off approach to posts does have notable defenders.

David Hudson, an advocate of expansive First Amendment rights, said that free speech protections should be extended to Facebook because its size and breadth gives Facebook the power of a government.

But Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who spoke out against Zuckerbergs remarks on Holocaust denial, said a boycott was the right way to go.

Facebook is a private entity and no private entity is obligated to post hate speech, she said. Generally I dont like boycotts, but if this is the only thing to which Facebook is going to respond, then you have no other choice. You can choose where you put your money.

Despite the measures Facebook has taken, the ADL says that hasnt happened. And thats why, after years of trying to collaborate with Facebook, the ADL is now trying to disrupt its revenue stream in the hopes of forcing change.

Theres a common understanding that Facebook is a company that puts revenue above all else, but I think this is a very clear-cut example, the ADLs Kelley said. All of these changes, the minor tweaks that Mark Zuckerberg announced on Friday, were things that the civil rights community have been asking for for years, in addition to larger structural changes to the platform.

It took a massive pause on advertisement by major companies to get them to move an inch.

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How the ADL went from working with Facebook to boycotting against it - The Jerusalem Post

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