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Condemning Facebook’s Anti-Semitic and Racist Attacks on Critics


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Condemning Facebook’s Anti-Semitic and Racist Attacks on Critics, MoveOn Demands Accountability and Real Reform

“These particular concerns exist within a broader context of concern about the threats that Facebook and other social networks and their algorithms and data pose to society and democracy.”

“We were surprised to learn last week that Facebook corporate leadership had hired a right-wing firm specializing in what the New York Times calls the ‘dark arts’ of politics to promulgate anti-Semitic, anti-black, and other attacks on public interest organizations,” MoveOn wrote in a letter on Wednesday. (Photos: Getty Images via CNN Money)

On the heels of an explosive report by the New York Times detailing Facebook’s use of a right-wing public relations firm to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about its critics, MoveOn.org—which describes itself as “one of the largest political advertisers on Facebook this year”—sent a letter on Wednesday to the social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and congressional leaders demanding accountability and urging the company to commit to fundamental reform.

The letter was written by Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn Political Action, and Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn Civic Action.

“We were surprised to learn last week that Facebook corporate leadership had hired a right-wing firm specializing in what the New York Times calls the ‘dark arts’ of politics to promulgate anti-Semitic, anti-black, and other attacks on public interest organizations that have been critical of Facebook,” they wrote. “Of course, these particular concerns exist within a broader context of concern about the threats that Facebook and other social networks and their algorithms and data pose to society and democracy.”

As Common Dreams reported, Facebook’s smear efforts targeted billionaire philanthropist George Soros and his foundations as well as the online racial justice organization Color of Change, which has accused Facebook of placing profits over privacy—particularly that of people of color and religious minorities.

“This is unacceptable and requires accountability,” Sheyman and Galland wrote of the social media behemoth’s attempts to discredit Soros and Color of Change. “How you as Facebook’s leaders respond is vitally important. We request an urgent meeting to discuss these issues with you in person.”

Read MoveOn’s full letter:

Dear Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg,

As leaders of one of the largest political advertisers on Facebook this year, we write to express concern about several of Facebook’s practices.

We were surprised to learn last week that Facebook corporate leadership had hired a right-wing firm specializing in what the New York Times calls the “dark arts” of politics to promulgate anti-Semitic, anti-black, and other attacks on public interest organizations that have been critical of Facebook. As the Times reported, this firm, Definers Public Affairs, has pushed racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in malicious efforts to discredit Color of Change, the Open Society Foundation, and other organizations committed to civil rights and a just society. This is unacceptable and requires accountability.

We also are concerned about Facebook’s ongoing Civil Rights Audit, in which MoveOn has participated. Your audit process lacks anonymity, lacks a commitment to transparency, and includes questions that appear aimed more at helping Facebook defend itself against pressure than improve its processes. We urge you to commit to real change resulting from the audit, including a game plan for operationalizing findings that includes internal resources focused on evaluation and enforcement in an ongoing way.

Finally, as a result of our experience as one of the largest political advertisers on Facebook in 2018 (MoveOn Political Action and our subsidiary MO Research together spent $5.5 million on Facebook ads from May to present), we have identified potential inconsistencies in the application of your advertising standards, including potential differences along lines of race and identity, that warrant investigation.

Of course, these particular concerns exist within a broader context of concern about the threats that Facebook and other social networks and their algorithms and data pose to society and democracy. We have seen in our work the potential that Facebook and other social networks have to be a force for good, but by this point the potential for harm is also clear. How you as Facebook’s leaders respond is vitally important.

We request an urgent meeting to discuss these issues with you in person. Thank you for your prompt attention.

Ilya Sheyman
Executive Director
MoveOn Political Action

Anna Galland
Executive Director
MoveOn Civic Action

CC
Speaker Paul D. Ryan
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer

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