In a letter sent yesterday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet joined a group of Democratic Senators urging Facebook to better combat anti-Muslim bigotry on its platform.
Bennet and 14 Senate colleagues say that while Facebook has taken some actions to address hate speech on its platform in the past, the company, “has not taken the steps required to effectively address hate and violence targeting Muslims.”
The senators point to Facebook’s role in enabling violence against Muslims around the world, including spreading hatred toward Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and the “horrific episode” in which a white nationalist gunman used Facebook Live to broadcast the massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Bennet and Senate colleagues also called for better enforcement of Facebook’s existing ‘call to arms policy, which is designed to prohibit content that calls on individuals to bring weapons to a location.
Bennet and colleagues cite a 2019 Facebook event page used by a militia group to plan an armed protest at the largest Muslim community convention in the country. It took Facebook more than 24 hours to remove the content, a delay that Facebook referred to as an “enforcement misstep.”
Facebook has announced plans to address anti-Muslim content, such as adding country-specific content moderators and investing in proactive detection technologies. However, the senators say, “it is not clear that the company is meaningfully better positioned to prevent further human rights abuses and violence against Muslim minorities,” because their reporting on hate speech removal lacks context on “whether takedowns are increasing only because hate content on the platform is increasing.”
In order to understand the scope of the problem and accurately evaluate Facebook’s response, the senators say that Facebook must collect and publicly report country specific data about the occurrence of hate speech, and the overall prevalence of hate speech on the platform.
In addition to Bennet, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
This letter marks the third time Bennet has written to Zuckerberg this year, according to a news release distributed by Bennet’s office. In July, Bennet and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) wrote to Facebook pushing for further action to strengthen civil rights protections, remove hate speech, and combat voter suppression. In February, Bennet asked Zuckerberg to address Facebook’s inability to limit misinformation in elections and assume greater responsibility for the damage Facebook has caused to core democratic values across the globe.
CORRECTION: This post briefly was bylined by the wrong author. It’s been corrected.