I join this independent Oversight Board with high hopes for its success, but with the knowledge that statements made even recently by Facebook, executives should be factored into any analysis produced by this Board.
September 30, 2020
Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc. issued the following statement today from its Founder, Shireen Mitchell:
I am honored to have been asked to join the independent Oversight Board that has been formed with the intention to serve as an external appeals review board on behalf of Facebook users. Since 2013, my organization, Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc., has extensively reported on the impact of Facebook’s policies and lack of action to protect targeted users. Facebook’s leaders have spoken in very different ways to different audiences. Their mixed messaging has resulted in the cumulative effects that everyone in the world is now witnessing during the U.S.’s 2020 election. My choice to join this Board is an important move toward holding Facebook’s leadership accountable. Their platform is more than just a company founded in the United States; It is a company that has made promises; and it has broken many of those promises to users in the U.S., and the world over.
I join this independent Oversight Board with high hopes for its success, but with the knowledge that statements made even recently by Facebook executives should be factored into any analysis produced by this Board. The formation of this new Board would not be the first time Facebook’s executive officers have manipulated reporters during interviews, or gotten away with making misleading statements to the government during hearings. Facebook executives regularly have made statements that suggest either they personally or Facebook itself, has less than direct control over its own company’s policies. Regardless of what Facebook officers say in interviews or to its own staff, the officers control the platform. It’s very apparent their public relations strategy has been to obscure this obvious fact from the public’s anger over their company’s policies.
To be clear, the remarks I am referring to are the Facebook executive who spoke to POLITICO reporters in a recent interview. This person in that interview absolved Facebook of harboring any policies that could have been seen to encourage violence, or anger, against Black and Brown Americans or any marginalized group in any country. They justified this belief by saying to a reporter at POLITICO, “That was there in the 30’s…they’re not created by social media.” Such a belief promotes a crippling absence of accountability for how their product is used in the public sphere.
That was not the only Facebook officers’ remarks on their personal views of the company’s public responsibilities. Many times, Facebook officers have testified before Congress indicating they don’t condone hate speech of any form but — still allow — content with a message of “shoot them all” targeting protesters to remain published and publicly shared.
Additionally, the company’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has apparently been telling Facebook’s own employees — in a leaked audio recording given to the media by staff — that “Facebook” doesn’t get enough “credit” for the promotion of Black Lives Matter, the Me Too movement or even the Women’s March.
Her remarks to her own staff in private were suggestive that she truly does believe that certain types of Facebook users should credit Facebook, specifically, with their organizing successes. I am here to say, at the launch of this Board, that is not a position I agree with. Black activists have been organizing long before Facebook was even thought of in that college dorm room by men who were inspired to rate the appearances of women, and reportedly, at least some men as well.
Today I stand in solidarity with other leaders and experts in this field who want far more than misguided testimonies or apologies. Statements that don’t produce real actions to protect privacy, safety, and our democracy, are of no use to anyone, except those interested in stock values or preserving a personal reputation.
Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc is a nonprofit that addresses inadequate laws and policies that lack protections for women in particular women of color. We focus on online violence against women, laws and policy changes needed at the local, state, and federal levels. We also focus on technology and social media company’s accountability. SOVAW serves as a resource of services and options for women and women of color, based on their level of targeted harassment or violence. We report on the diverse issues and impacts for those who are willing to share their stories. This includes digital voter suppression. We are a nonpartisan organization.
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