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Organizers of Facebook Advertising Boycott Call Meeting with Zuckerberg a ‘Disappointment’

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg attends the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, February 15, 2020. (Andreas Gebert/Reuters)

Activists behind a boycott of Facebook by major advertisers said a virtual meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other senior leadership on Tuesday was “a disappointment” and shows the platform has failed “to meet the moment.”

Organizers of the boycott, including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, said in a Zoom call after the meeting that Zuckerberg was ignoring their demands.

“They have had our demands for years and yet it is abundantly clear that they are not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform,” Color of Change president Rashad Robinson tweeted.

“We know there’s a lot of good and well-intentioned people at Facebook but the company is intentionally flawed,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “We expected specifics and that’s not what we heard.”

“No media outlet would allow what Facebook is allowing on their platform,” NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson added. “We should expect more from a company like Facebook.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said that the 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. As a company, we have agreed to an independent civil rights audit which will be released tomorrow,” the spokesperson said. “We have invested billions in people and technology to keep hate off of our platform. We have created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference and have launched the largest voting information campaign in American history. We have banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations and are holding ourselves accountable by producing regular reports about our content moderation efforts. We know we will be judged by our actions not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement.”

The groups have called for Facebook to submit itself to third-party audits over fears that the platform is “promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.” The efforts came after Zuckerberg has repeatedly declined to change Facebook’s political speech policy, which allows for the running of political ads that contain false information.

Last month, Zuckerberg told employees at a town hall that he will not change the policy despite the boycott, which has included companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Starbucks. Advertising accounts for much of the company’s yearly $70 billion in profit, and Zuckerberg said he believes advertisers will return “soon enough.”

“We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue,” he stated. “Usually I tend to think that if someone goes out there and threatens you to do something, that actually kind of puts you in a box where in some ways it’s even harder to do what they want because now it looks like you’re capitulating.”

In June, Facebook declined to follow Twitter’s lead in labeling various posts by President Trump that criticized rioters, including Trump’s comment that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” But the platform has since said users can turn off political advertisements and that it will flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that violate its policies.

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