Facebook Boycott Leaders Fume after Zuckerberg Meeting: 'No Changes, No Response'

Facebook refused to submit to a list of demands made by civil rights leaders behind the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign at a meeting Tuesday.

A joint statement released by the heads of three activist organizations responsible for spearheading the widespread advertising boycott said the social network's executives were non-committal and only offered the "same old defenses" of its policies.

"It was abundantly clear in our meeting today that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform," they wrote.

The meeting saw CEO Mark Zuckerberg come face-to-face virtually with NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson, Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson, Free Press co-CEO Jessica J. González and ADL director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

Also present during the Tuesday encounter was Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and chief product officer Christopher Cox.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign urged brands to slash ad spend through this month, accusing Facebook of failing to combat hateful content and extremism.

It quickly gained traction, with hundreds of businesses getting involved, including Ford, Unilever, Starbucks, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Best Buy and many more.

The aim was to target Facebook's ad dollars, which accounts for about 98 percent of its annual revenue, which amounted to close to $70 billion throughout 2019 alone.

Today's meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and his leadership yielded familiar results: no changes, no timeline, no response to our specific requests.
We are tired of hearing what Facebook says they will do; we want to actually see them do it. We want them to #StopHateForProfit. https://t.co/HRJNdWyeoC

— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 7, 2020

In a statement after the meeting on Tuesday, the civil rights campaigners said Facebook executives did not budge in relation to a list of 10 demands. The groups had pitched a series of changes in the areas of accountability, decency and support.

For example, they appealed to Facebook to bring in a C-suite executive with civil rights expertise, to submit to independent audits, to find and remove hate content, flag hateful content in private groups for human review and create a way for individual users "facing severe hate and harassment" to connect with a live Facebook employee.

According to the joint statement, the meeting largely resulted in stalemate—with the ad boycott leaders calling for change and executives standing firm. "Facebook wants us to accept the same old rhetoric repackaged as a fresh response," they fumed.

The groups said: "The only recommendation [Facebook] attempted to address is hiring a civil rights position but were unable to commit to the crucial piece of the position being at the C-suite level or what the requirements for the position will be.

"They offered no attempt to respond to the other nine recommendations. Zuckerberg offered no automatic recourse for advertisers whose content runs alongside hateful content. He had no answer for why Facebook recommends hateful groups to users."

"He refused to agree to provide an option for victims of hate and harassment to connect with a live Facebook representative," the joint statement added.

"And he did not offer any tangible plans on how Facebook will address the rampant disinformation and violent conspiracies on its platform. Instead, he offered a retread of the same old talking points from last week [with] tweaks around the edges."

In a statement yesterday, Sandberg said Facebook was making changes "but not for financial reasons or advertiser pressure, but because it is the right thing to do."

Zuckerberg, social network's founder, previously pledged millions of dollars to "support Black businesses and organizations" and indicated the platform will soon label content that's found to break community guidelines but is considered newsworthy.

Those pushing for the mass advertising boycott walked away disappointed. "Today's meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and his leadership yielded familiar results: no changes, no timeline, no response to our specific requests," the ADL's Greenblatt tweeted.

Facebook says it remains committed to removing hate speech from its suite of apps and the results of an independent civil rights audit are now imminent.

A spokesperson told Newsweek the meeting was an opportunity to listen to the groups' concerns and "reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform."

A company statement said: "They want Facebook to be free of hate speech and so do we. That's why it's so important that we work to get this right.

"We know we will be judged by our actions, not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement," Facebook added.

Ultimately, the campaigners were unconvinced by the arguments put forward by the social network, which has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users globally.

"Mark Zuckerberg, you aren't breaking things, you are breaking people," their release asserted. "With a stroke of a pen, you could make Facebook better for your users, your advertisers, and society. We hope that you continue thinking about the consequences of what you have wrought and come back to the table soon with real change."

 Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 11, 2018. SAUL LOEB/Getty