Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met on Tuesday with leaders of boycott that has led to hundreds of companies suspending their advertising on the social network because of a proliferation of hate and misinformation posted by users.
But despite Zuckerberg's attempt to diffuse the firestorm during the discussion, the boycott organizers left disappointed.
“Today we saw little and heard just about nothing,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the civil rights groups that attended the meeting. “The company is functionally flawed.”
The hour-long virtual talk came days after the start of the one-month ad boycott of Facebook, called #StopHateForProfit. Big businesses like PepsiCo, Verizon, Honda, and Levi Strauss have joined, along with a number of small businesses.
The organizers are pushing Facebook to add a C-suite executive with civil rights expertise, find and remove groups that focus on topics like white supremacy and misinformation about vaccines, and create specialized teams to review complaints about posts that include identity-based hate. But Facebook executives made no specific promises to during the meeting and showed no evidence that they have made any changes, the organizers said.
“They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director at Change of Color. "We were expecting very clear answers to questions we put on the table, and we didn’t get them.”
Instead, Facebook executives argued that they're doing better, including removing 89% of hateful content, according to the boycott organizers. In a statement to Fortune, Facebook also said it has invested "billions in people and technology to keep hate off" its service, created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference, and banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations.
"They want Facebook to be free of hate speech and so do we," Facebook said. "That’s why it’s so important that we work to get this right."
On Wednesday, Facebook is expected to release the third update to its annual civil rights audit, a review by a third party of how the service handles discrimination against people of color. But Facebook has failed to implement some of the recommendations in the two previous versions, the boycott organizers said, and they expect more of the same this time around.
“It’s like going to the doctor, getting a new set of recommendations about your diet, and then not doing anything about it and wondering why you’re not any healthier,” Robison said.
He accused Facebook of letting politics get in the way of doing the right thing. He partly blamed Joe Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of policy, a former Republican White House aide who supported Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings, for some of Facebook's decisions like leaving President Donald Trump's inflammatory posts on its service untouched.
In addition to Zuckerberg, attendees for Facebook included chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, chief Product officer Chris Cox, and communications chief Nick Clegg. On the other side of the virtual table were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Free Press, along with the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change.
“We have found them more interested in dialogue than action,” said Derrick Johnson, CEO of the NAACP.
Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of Free Press, agreed, saying: "I don’t feel our demands were met with the seriousness of our stakes. This is a life or death issue."
In the meantime, the boycott organizers said they'll continue encouraging businesses to boycott Facebook ads. They hope to add more companies to the campaign and to make it more of a global movement.
“We’re going to continue to push,” Robinson said. “We’re going to ask corporations that have stood with us, ‘Are you comfortable with the fact that Mark Zuckerberg seems to think you’re just going to show back up? That he can thumb his nose at you, that he is all powerful in so many ways that you simply have no leverage whatsoever.’”
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