The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is calling for a weeklong boycott of Facebook and Instagram starting immediately, after the report out Monday saying the platforms were used to manipulate black voters in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The report, commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and conducted by the online intel firm New Knowledge, showed how a Russian disinformation campaign in the months before the election increasingly targeted black Facebook users by imitating groups such as Black Lives Matter. The campaign sought to suppress African-American votes, and thereby aid Donald Trump’s election.
“Facebook’s engagement with partisan firms, its targeting of political opponents, the spread of misinformation and the utilization of Facebook for propaganda promoting disingenuous portrayals of the African-American community is reprehensible,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP President, said in a statement, which also mentioned the Baltimore-based organization had returned a recent donation from Facebook. It’s not clear how much that donation was worth.
In a blog post Tuesday morning, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said the company is “committed to working with leading U.S. civil rights organizations to strengthen and advance civil rights on our service.” Facebook then provided an update on the civil rights audit being conducted by Laura Murphy, a former legislative director at the American Civil Liberties Union. In that update, Murphy notes that “advocates and experts specifically noted the absence of a public-facing policy dedicated to preventing voter suppression and expressed concerns that Facebook’s operations team was ill-prepared to address this challenge in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.”
Murphy also said Facebook took important steps to inform voters before the midterms, however, and sent users reminders about voter registration deadlines and election day.
Meanwhile, President Trump on Tuesday tweeted with his own accusation of Facebook bias -- against Republicans. And separately, on Monday, veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg announced he was quitting Facebook and Facebook-owned apps like Messenger and Instagram, saying in a tweet he was “no longer comfortable there.”
The company is facing an onslaught of condemnation in the US and abroad for not policing its content and allowing bad actors to operate on its platforms.
Cover image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire URN:38130443 (Press Association via AP Images)