Opinion: Users, advertisers and society need a better Facebook. Here’s how we fix it – AdAge.com

Posted By on July 15, 2020

Its not just outsiders making this point. Facebook cant convince many of its own people that the tech giant is on the right side of this issue. Even before we launched this movement, hundreds of Facebooks employees staged a virtual walk-out last month. One of the engineers at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) asked Zuckerberg to quit as CEO at an employee town hall. Nearly three dozen of the companys earliest employees wrote an open letter accusing him of instituting content moderation policies that are incoherent, cowardly, and a betrayal of the ideals Facebook claims. More than 140 CZI-funded researchers signed an open letter addressing Facebooks unwillingness to address hate and misinformation. Facebooks own Chief Product Officer, Christopher Coxwho left Facebook over the direction of the company in early 2019criticized Facebooks refusal to fact-check false political ads in late 2019, before rejoining the company this spring.

We clearly struck a nerve by stating the obvious aloud, and thanks to advertisers big and smallfrom Fortune 500 companies to small businesses and mom-and-pop outfitswe have gotten Facebooks attention. Our coalition sat down with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Chris Cox and other Facebook executives earlier this week. Considering Facebooks well-documented playbook for dealing with the failures of its platform, described years ago by The New York Times as delay, deny, and deflect,we had low expectations going into the meeting.

Facebook lived up to those expectations. Instead of responding to the demands of dozens of the platforms largest advertisers that have joined the #StopHateForProfit ad pause, the companys leaders offered the same old defense of white supremacist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and other hateful content. Its the same set of strategies, talking points, and excuses used after the white supremacist violence in places like Charlottesville and Christchurch, Russian manipulation of the 2016 election, and the genocide in Myanmar. Its hard, they tell us. Were trying.

But while perfection is hard, improvement is easy. Facebooks problems are primarily not a result of technological limitations. They are a result of deliberate choices. Or as folks say in the tech world: the viral amplification and monetization of hate on Facebook is a feature, not a bug. Its an integral part of the current business model, which relies on the lucrative engagement that divisive and hateful content generates. And its a result of a willful refusal to acknowledge the well-documented harms of that content. We need Facebook to make better choices, including:

Shut down hateful and conspiratorial groups. This isnt complicated. Purge Facebook of groups that consistently spread vitriolic hate, racism, antisemitism and violent conspiracies. Mark Zuckerberg claimed Facebook does this at his 2018 Congressional testimony, but we all know otherwise. Reform of disinformation policies. While election interference is the issue everyone knows, Facebooks refusal to seriously address climate-change denial,Holocaust denial and other disinformation efforts are also hurting our society. Live support for harassment victims. Behind every data point is a person. Facebooks platform needs to connect victims of online abuse with real people to provide immediate support.

Facebook could easily address these issues if they wanted to. We see that in their agreement to one of our 10 short-term needs, which is the creation of a stronger civil rights infrastructure. We are pleased that Facebook agreed to recruit for a senior position focused on civil rights. This cant come soon enough after a long-delayed and damning independent civil rights audit released on Wednesday labeled their policy decisions on content a tremendous setback. While we would prefer the position to be higher in the organization chart, we believe that this position can help Facebook improve if a strong candidate is selected and sufficiently empowered. We look forward to making similar progress on the other short-term needs that we identified.

Still, if their latest response is any indicator, we have a long way to go. They say that they will conduct an audit, but they dont acknowledge that it is designed only to cover their narrow terms of service instead of all the content that advertisers and society are concerned about. They say they dont recommend problematic content, but our analysts are still being served with recommendations for violent conspiracy and hateful groups today. They say that they have strong policies against misrepresentations that would directly interfere with the vote, without mentioning that political ads can lie about virtually anything else.

Its clear their plan is to wait us all out. Mark Zuckerberg admitted as much himself. According to media reports last week, he told employees behind closed doors that he expects all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.

Mark Zuckerberg doesnt get it. This isnt about revenue. Its about the harm his business is doing to society, that he can fix. We have been clear from the beginning that we are not trying to Facebook's business. Rather, we are trying to show them the wide societal agreement that Facebook needs to change. As more voices join the chorus of advertisers, users and civil rights groups, we are confident that Mark, Sheryl and Chris will take the commonsense steps that will allow Facebook to continue to thrive while decreasing hate, harassment and misinformation.

Users, advertisersand society overall need a better Facebook. Together, we can Stop Hate for Profit.

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Opinion: Users, advertisers and society need a better Facebook. Here's how we fix it - AdAge.com

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