Washington, D.C.—People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker today issued the following statement in response to The New York Times’ report on Nov. 14, 2018, detailing Facebook’s “aggressive lobbying campaign to combat…critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation.”
Facebook used deeply disturbing tactics for profit. The company lied about its knowledge of Russia’s use of the platform to interfere in the 2016 election, in what appears to be a pattern of brazen deception about the extent of bad actors’ abuse of the platform to harvest users’ data and promote hate speech, fake news, and conspiracy theories.
Facebook smeared critics and propagated fallacious right-wing conspiracy theories, including the anti-Semitic trope that George Soros was secretly funding the company’s opponents. Extremists justify horrific violence using this specific conspiracy theory, as we saw in tragic events preceding this year’s elections—Facebook’s use of it is outrageously reckless and dangerous.
Facebook and the properties owned by the company such as Instagram are powerful beyond most people’s comprehension. For millions of people worldwide, including millions of Americans, these platforms are essential to the exchange of ideas and information in every space online — cultural, commercial, arts and entertainment, political, and personal.
Because of this, the company must be held to high standards. Facebook’s unethical behavior and its desperate and dishonest attempts to evade oversight and accountability are not acceptable.
We urge both chambers of Congress to investigate thoroughly the allegations against and practices of Facebook and to pass legislation that prevents future abuse by Facebook and similar companies. And we urge Facebook to make substantial, immediate changes, apologize for its behavior, and work with policymakers to create a landscape of true accountability.
While we acknowledge the central role Facebook plays in the sharing of information by people and organizations – some of whom are our members and allies –People For the American Way is canceling our planned paid year-end advertising spending on the platform.
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