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Senate Dems say Facebook not doing enough to purge 'extremist content' from its platforms

Dems ask for company's 'internal research' into its content policies.

Updated: June 30, 2020 - 7:16pm

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Three Senate Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to social media giant Facebook expressing concern that the tech company is "unable (or unwilling) to enforce its own Community Standards and rid itself of white supremacist and other extremist content."

Sens. Mark Warner, Virginia, Mazie Hirono, Hawaii, and Robert Menendez, New Jersey, wrote in the letter that they had "serious concerns about Facebook’s lack of action to prevent white supremacist groups from using the platform as a recruitment and organizational tool."

Citing the current and ongoing surge of racial activism across the country, the senators said that Facebook's "failure to address the hate spreading on its platform reveals significant gaps between Facebook’s professed commitment to racial justice and the company’s actions and business interests."

They also claimed numerous white supremacist organizations have allegedly been allowed to flourish on the site unchecked, including some that have promoted plans for "a militant uprising in the United States in response to stay-at-home orders issued to cope with the coronavirus pandemic."

Some users have allegedly used Facebook to meet each other and/or coordinate criminal acts including murder, the senators argue further. 

The Democrats directed Facebook to answer a dozen questions by July 10, including providing their offices with "any Facebook internal research concerning the platform’s amplification of extremist groups."

Letter comes as boycott against Facebook grows

The Democrats' letter comes as a growing boycott threatens Facebook's all-important advertising cashflow. 

Best Buy, Ford Motor Corp, and Clorox are among the major corporations that have signed on to an increasingly broad boycott of advertising on Facebook for the month of July, a campaign meant to force the social media company to more thoroughly regulate the content that appears on its website. 

Starbuck's and Levi's have also signed on to the protest, as have numerous other major companies such as Coca-Cola, Honda and Hershey. 

The "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign, which has been organized by the Anti-Defamation League, is meant to force Facebook into more heavily regulating what the ADL claims is unrestricted "hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence" on the social media platform. 

The corporations are hoping that, in addition to instituting several new speech policing measures, Facebook will institute a new suite of "internal mechanisms" for users to file appeals and seek redress after they've been the victims of purported hate on the website. 

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