Stop Hate for Profit Update to Advertisers
June 29, 2020
Businesses did something incredible last week: they got Facebook’s attention. Many businesses told us how they had been ignored when asking Facebook for changes. The nonprofit partners in the Stop Hate for Profit coalition felt the same way. We’ve collectively met hundreds of times with Facebook over the years to discuss how the company can take simple steps to make the platform better for all. Each time, we - like businesses - came away with vague timelines, shrugged shoulders or empty promises.
But, together, we finally got Facebook’s attention. Facebook representatives have been calling advertisers. Mark Zuckerberg held a town hall on Friday. The company sent out a note to some of their top advertisers Friday night with some updates.
Unfortunately, the sum total of these exercises reveal that Facebook has been spending more time on their messaging rather than addressing the underlying problems on the platform.
HOW HAS FACEBOOK RESPONDED?
Between the town hall and the letter, the company announced updates and policy changes that were, unfortunately, insufficient. Specifically:
Facebook promised to apply their hate policy to ads - but not do anything about hate more broadly in groups and posts where it is a far more significant and systemic issue.
Voter misinformation may be a bit harder to spread the few days before the election - but still will run rampant the rest of the time.
Posts from someone “newsworthy” that call for violence will be labeled - but they will still be allowed despite the clear harm that they may pose.
Facebook will allow for a third-party audit of their community standards that will include a prevalence of hate, so their metrics for hate could be verified by an external authority. This is something we want, but more details are desperately needed (e.g., will the audits be independent? What will be made public? When?). Facebook has made grand claims of audits before, only for them to die privately when public attention moved on.
Facebook says it is prepared to work with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and the Media Ratings Council to identify appropriate brand safety audit requirements, but the company has provided no details whatsoever to understand what that actually entails.
Sadly, none of these initial steps will make a significant dent in the persistent hate and racism so prevalent on the largest social media platform on the planet. That’s why we need to keep up the pressure.
WHAT SHOULD ADVERTISERS ASK FACEBOOK?
Businesses undoubtedly will hear more appeals from Facebook over the coming days both directly and through the press. Facebook will talk about new policies, new steps, and new statistics. To help businesses gauge whether their talking points are real change or just window dressing, we have outlined the following ten simple questions that we encourage businesses to ask Facebook.
And, to be clear, adopting each of these next steps wouldn’t mean that Facebook was perfect; but it would mean that it was serious about addressing businesses’ concerns. And each of these steps could be completed or gotten well underway over the next month.
1. Will you agree to hire a C-suite level executive with deep civil rights expertise that evaluates products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate? Can you at least commit now to that position and hire a recruiter to fill the role?
2. Can you commit that the third party audit of hate and misinformation will not be done by someone with financial ties to Facebook, that the audit will be concluded by the end of the year, and that the results will be made public? Can you also commit that it will consider not just what Facebook considers hate and misinformation under its narrow terms of service but also what civil rights groups have determined is problematic (even if Facebook doesn’t agree), like lies in political ads and violent conspiracy theories? Will you commit to submitting to such independent, third party audits on an annual basis?
3. When will you begin auditing and giving refunds to advertisers if ads were shown next to problematic content? Can you commit that Facebook will provide a refund for ads next to problematic content like racist propaganda, antisemitic conspiracies and misinformation (even if Facebook permits it)? Will the audit be independent, thorough and released on a regular basis such that companies can be sure that they won’t find their ads running alongside the horrible content that Facebook permits?
4. Have you changed your policy and removed the many public and private groups dedicated to hate or violent conspiracies? For example, have you taken down the many groups (including one that has 165,000 members) of supporters of QAnon, a wide-ranging conspiracy focused on an alleged “deep state” and pedophilia that grew out of Pizzagate and has inspired violence? What about the 8,000-member group of the Three Percenters, a wing of the anti-government militia movement associated with a number of violent and intimidating activities? Will you report on this monthly?
5. Will you change your policies and begin labeling likely inauthentic information that will help stem radicalization and hate on the platform?
6. Have you updated your algorithms to stop recommending that people join conspiracy or hateful groups like those above? What specifically have you changed since you tried to bury your research that found that 64% of the users in extremist German groups joined due to Facebook’s recommendation? Have you changed anything since a few days ago when analysts and reporters found you recommending conspiracy groups? Will you agree to an audit of your algorithms to confirm this in the next month?
7. Will you agree to assign a human reviewer to all large private groups (i.e., thousands of people) where we know hateful content is circulating? Will you agree to monthly reporting of how often these large groups’ posts violate terms of service?
8. Will you change your policy to prohibit political ads that make bald-faced lies? Will you report monthly on the number of ads that you rejected or took down because of it?
9. Will you agree to provide anti-bias and hate-related training to all moderators in the next 90 days so that moderators become more accurate in adjudicating identity-based hate?
10. Given that 42% of daily users experienced harassment on Facebook, will you commit to allowing victims who are facing severe hate and harassment to connect with a live Facebook employee?
These are just some of the questions businesses might want to ask Facebook representatives so that businesses can see that they haven’t made real changes yet… and so Facebook knows businesses want them.
Together, we can make Facebook better for advertisers, users and the world.
-The Stop Hate for Profit Coalition
1For example, in 2018 they promised to conduct a Civil Rights Audit and they also promised to grant researchers access to study Facebook’s role in impacting elections. These were incredibly powerful and important projects in conception; however, in practice they have fallen short of delivering any real impact. The audit has been dragged out over years and has not influenced meaningful change to decrease the harmful impact Facebook has had on our society, nor has Facebook made significant resourcing or personnel commitments to build Civil Rights expertise into the highest levels of the company and its product teams. Additionally, Facebook has never answered the question: what did you find in the audit and what did you do in light of those findings?