Thursday, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson went on Democracy Now! to discuss #LogOffFacebook, the civil rights group’s one-week protest of the social network. The protest started on Tuesday in response to U.S. Senate reports published on Monday revealing that a Russian misinformation campaign disproportionately targeted African-American voters on Facebook during the 2016 election.
“They’ve allowed their tool to be used to discriminate against African-American communities in terms of home purchases. They’ve allowed their tool to be used by foreign nations to subvert democracy and seek to suppress African-American votes,” said Johnson on the program. “They’ve allowed their tool to fester racial hatred. They’ve allowed their corporate culture to hire an outside firm to investigate African-American groups and individuals, as if we were a candidate to be opposed to.”
In the group’s Facebook post announcing the boycott, Johnson added that the NAACP had returned a monetary donation received from the social network: “We want to send a message that, as the largest social network in the world, it is Facebook’s corporate social responsibility to ensure that people of color are well represented in their workforce and recognize that users of color have a right to be protected from propaganda and misinformation.”
On Tuesday, the storied civil rights group also signed an open letter, along with a number of organizations, including MoveOn and the Southern Poverty Law Center, addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The letter demands that Zuckerberg step down as chairman, and that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg step down from the company’s board of directors “in order to allow the board to provide independent oversight and guidance for the management team.”
While the company has not yet responded to the ongoing boycott, in a post shared on Tuesday, Sandberg released an update from a civil rights audit.
“As a direct response to feedback from civil rights advocates, we are focusing on voter suppression as a distinct civil rights challenge and will continue this work to be better prepared for future elections,” said Sandberg. In the statement, Sandberg added the following regarding the recent reports on the 2016 election:
Two independent reports commissioned by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released Monday on the Russian Internet Research Agency’s use of technology around the 2016 election suggest that the IRA’s efforts had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. We take this incredibly seriously, as demonstrated by the investments we’ve made in safety and security.
The boycott comes as yet another blow to Facebook, which this week was also the subject of a bombshell New York Times report on the company’s data breaching policies that forced some, including Paste’s Jacob Weindling, to argue that it’s time to get rid of the platform altogether.
While it might have been hard to imagine a life without Facebook just a few years ago, it’s safe to say that many are finally taking a stand against the company’s amplification, and even spread, of bigotry and misinformation. It’s long past time to log off.