Civil Rights leaders aren’t happy with the state of things over at Facebook, and they are addressing their concerns straight to Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. During a two-hour dinner at his home in Palo Alto, California, the civil rights activists urged the company to rid its social media platforms of election misinformation and voter suppression.
Al Sharpton and Rashad Robinson, president of the advocacy group Color of Change, were among the attendees. For Facebook, Zuckerberg was joined by Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and head of global policy Nick Clegg.
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“Facebook has been under scrutiny on issues including election manipulation, privacy lapses and potential antitrust actions. Civil rights activists took particular issue with the company when researchers found Russian operatives used Facebook to target African-American voters with misinformation and voter suppression efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign,” Bloomberg reported.
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“We said free speech has to be done within the framework of public safety and abiding by the law,” Sharpton told Bloomberg. “Breaking the law in our opinion is any engagement in knowingly being involved in voter suppression.”
Robinson urged Facebook to build civil rights into its company culture.
Facebook needs a “C-suite-level team that is focused on civil rights,” Robinson said. This group would look at things like Facebook’s artificial intelligence efforts, algorithms, ads, and content to provide the company with “a lens by which civil rights is viewed.“
“We’re grateful that these prominent leaders of the civil rights community took the time to attend a private dinner hosted by Mark and Sheryl,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “They discussed a range of important issues and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”
Sharpton has some thoughts on Zuckerberg and the dinner. “The implication was that he is thinking through how to get to the right place,” Sharpton said. “I think the fact that he had the meeting and had it in his home, not that he had others do it or even meet at his office, was a signal that he’s directly looking into this.”
“I felt like we had a substantive and respectful conversation that was robust,” Robinson added. “Whether or not we were heard will depend on their actions.”