President Rashad Robinson: “Facebook conceded to the right-wing’s playbook ”
MENLO PARK — Following the release today of Facebook’s anti-conservative bias study, co-authored by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and with involvement from the Heritage Foundation, Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, issued the following statement from President Rashad Robinson:
“When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to the ‘bias’ study last year, he conceded to Joel Kaplan’s political views and the right-wing’s playbook of victimhood, undermining the company’s stated commitment to protect civil rights on the platform. Claims of anti-conservative bias are simply an attempt to distract users and the media from the conservative movement’s attacks against Black communities and other marginalized groups. Following this month’s gruesome attacks, Facebook must take responsibility for not only normalizing violence against us, but also explicitly promoting and facilitating it.
Facebook’s first priority should be fixing the damage it has brought to our democracy. This shameful report, coupled with the lack of meaningful, long-term civil rights infrastructure at the company, speaks volumes about Facebook’s willingness to maintain a broken business model at the expense of Black and marginalized communities.
The ultimate goal of the civil rights audit, which Color Of Change has championed for four years, is to ensure that we have the same rights online as we are entitled to offline. Facebook’s actions have consistently proven that self-regulation will not be sufficient to address the urgency and scale of the crisis facing social media users around the world.
As consensus grows that our communities need better protections online, Congressional leaders must prioritize enforcing civil rights over pacifying right-wing forces. Color Of Change and its 1.5 million members demand that Congress step in and use its regulatory power to prioritize the protection of digital civil rights for Black users and those from marginalized communities.”
Facebook’s invitation to Sen. Kyl and the Heritage Foundation to lead the ‘bias’ study casts serious doubt onto its neutrality and legitimacy. Senator Kyl has a proven record of Islamophobia, including ties to hate groups like the Center for Security Policy, as well as a voting record that undermined protections for Black and LGBTQ communities in his two-decade tenure in the Senate. The Heritage Foundation also has a long history of fanning the flames of racial animosity. Its current director, Rebekah Mercer, once had a significant ownership stake and position of power at Cambridge Analytica.
Color Of Change began pressuring Facebook about discrimination on the platform in 2015 and made its first demand for a civil rights audit in 2016. In November 2018, the racial justice organization pushed Facebook to agree–for the first time ever–to the public release of this audit. Facebook’s update to the civil rights audit, released June 30, demonstrated a growing commitment to civil rights by the platform after years of successful advocacy led by Color Of Change, including a commitment to creating a civil rights accountability infrastructure headed by Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Despite this commitment, the audit failed to establish protocols for evaluating the potential discriminatory impacts of new products, or outline the proactive enforcement process necessary to achieve a discrimination-free platform. The lack of structural changes reflected in the audit confirms that outside intervention from government regulators will be necessary to ensure civil rights become an operational priority at Facebook and across large technology platforms.
Color Of Change is also aggressively pushing online payment service providers to stop providing a platform for white supremacist groups, who use their services to build power, expand membership and incite terrorism. Launched in 2017, Color Of Change’s #NoBloodMoney campaign has successfully mobilized more than 100,000 members to cut over 175 funding sources for dangerous hate groups. Additionally, Color Of Change successfully pushed Spotify to remove Alex Jones, a media personality known for spreading bigoted conspiracy theories, from the company's podcast streaming platform.