Keith Ellison asks Facebook to ‘aggressively’ crack down on ‘hate speech’

"Facebook has to do more and do better to stop hate." 

Image credit: Twitter via @AGEllison

Facebook needs to “aggressively” enforce policies “against hate speech and hate organizations,” said a letter sent last week to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and co-signed by Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Ellison joined 19 of his fellow attorneys general in issuing the letter, which accuses Facebook of failing to prevent its platform from becoming “a vehicle for misinformation and discrimination.”

“We, the undersigned State Attorneys General, write to request that you take additional steps to prevent Facebook from being used to spread disinformation and hate and to facilitate discrimination,” the letter begins. “Although Facebook has made some progress in counteracting the use of its platform to dehumanize and demean, that is just the beginning of what is necessary. Private parties, organized groups, and public officials continue to use Facebook to spread misinformation and project messages of hate against different groups of Americans.”

As attorneys general, Ellison and his colleagues claim they have a responsibility to “contend with the impacts of online hate, intimidation, and harassment.”

“Many of our offices enforce the laws that protect our residents from bias offenses, intimidation, and harassment — whether online or on our streets,” the letter continues. “While Facebook has — on occasion — taken action to address violations of its terms of service in cases where we have helped elevate our constituents’ concerns, we know that everyday users of Facebook can find the process slow, frustrating, and ineffective.”

As such, the letter provides several “positive steps” Facebook can take to “strengthen its policies and practices,” including the aggressive enforcement of policies “against hate speech and organized hate organizations.”

The letter asks Zuckerberg to commit to an “ongoing, independent analysis of Facebook’s content population scheme.”

“By funneling users toward particular types of content, Facebook’s content population scheme, including its algorithms, can push users into extremist online communities that feature divisive and inflammatory messages, often directed at particular groups. Although Facebook has conducted research and considered programs to reduce this risk, there is still no mandatory guidance for coders and other teams involved in content population,” the letter explains.

Other suggestions include: expanded policies against “inflammatory advertisements,” live real-time assistance for victims of harassment, and strengthened “filtering, reporting, and blocking tools.”

“We urge Facebook to take these steps to better tackle hate in our society, and address the interests of users who are victimized by others in the online community that Facebook has built,” the letter concludes.

“Proud to be a part of this group of AGs,” Ellison said on Twitter. “Facebook has to do more and do better to stop hate.”