Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Congressional Black Caucus Forms Coalition to Press Facebook on Racial Issues

Congressional Black Caucus
Congressional Black Caucus

*Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have formed a coalition to press Facebook for action on racial issues, a congressional aide with knowledge of the discussions tells The Hill.

“[They’re] done with the excuses,” the aide said.

There’s a growing feeling in the CBC that Congress needs to put its foot down regarding technology companies who ignore matters that hurt people of color on their platforms and within their companies.

The coalition, whose membership is still unclear, plans to take advantage of its scheduled meeting with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Thursday to get some answers.

Dialogue will reportedly include Facebook’s “diversity tone-deafness,” including why the company has no black members on its board of directors, why Facebook allowed minority communities to be targeted with its advertising products and who is being held accountable to make sure that such ads don’t appear on Facebook in the future.

The group of CBC members also plans to address with Sandberg the racially charged Facebook ads that were bought by Russians and used as part of their $100,000 political ad buy around the 2016 presidential race in an apparent attempt to stir racial tensions.

Some members of the CBC have already pressured Facebook on similar issues. At the end of September, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) penned a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking that the company “ensure that discriminatory and tactically divisive ad-targeting is aggressively prevented.”

Ads purchased by the Russian actors included messages suggesting that Black Lives Matter is a political threat and encouraged viewers to attend an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rally in Idaho.

A week later, Kelly and Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) wrote another letter to Facebook pressing the company to increase diversity on its board, curb fake news on its platform and end “incendiary racial advertising” on Facebook.

The CBC is not unified in its criticism of technology companies. At least one member of the caucus, former Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), believes that Facebook is headed in the right direction.

“I think Facebook has figured it out. I think that they’re going to be more circumspect,” Butterfield told The Hill last week. “Facebook is aware of our concerns and I believe we’re going see a more cautious approach to social media.”



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