Civil rights leaders meet with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg but doubt his commitment to change

The civil rights groups have 10 demands for Facebook, which are outlined on their website, including calls for stricter policies against hate speech and disinformation. The groups want a clearer understanding of how Facebook defines hate speech and an audit of its record on removing such content.  

Facebook has responded to some of the demands in recent weeks by issuing a more expansive definition of hateful speech in political ads. It also has acted against “Boogaloo” organizations, which are considered to be violent anti-U.S. government agitators. Last week, Facebook removed more than 500 accounts related to the Boogaloo ideology. (The name stems from an ironic reference to the 1980s B-movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” and supporters use the sequel as a nod to stoking a replay of the U.S. Civil War.) 

Facebook also says it will deliver a report on Wednesday showing its record on civil rights. Facebook has been working with the civil rights groups for years to address their many concerns, and its report on Wednesday is meant to show how it deals with issues around discrimination and hate groups. Facebook says it already catches 89 percent of all hate speech through artificial intelligence, before it reaches the public. Even with claims like that one, the civil rights organizations want more clarity into what Facebook defines as hate speech and more oversight over how it monitors such activity. 

Facebook has promised that it would tap entities like Media Rating Council to certify its record on policing for offensive content. 

The NAACP, ADL, Color of Change and the other groups organized the boycott in the aftermath of the protests over the killing of George Floyd. The groups were particularly outraged by a now-infamous post from President Donald Trump in May that declared, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Facebook allowed the president’s post to stand unpunished, while Twitter slapped a warning on it. Facebook critics used the Trump post as an example of how Facebook fails to punish incendiary speech. Facebook executives have been reluctant to start censoring political content. 

The civil rights leaders said they were disappointed in the meeting. 

The meeting was “long on time but short on commitments,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “What we heard them say is that they are on a journey and they think they are doing better. There is no journey, if you will, on fighting hate.”

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