The NAACP is calling for its supporters to stand against Facebook after it was revealed that misinformation campaigns and opposition research paid for by the platform disproportionately targeted African-American communities.
The civil rights organization’s President Derrick Johnson called for a #LogOutFacebook boycott on Tuesday to protest Facebook’s hiring of an opposition research firm that looked into financial connections between billionaire philanthropist George Soros and anti-Facebook organizations, like the racial justice group Color of Change. The New York Times made that startling revelation in late November.
In a statement over the weekend, Johnson said the NAACP has returned a donation from Facebook.
“We want to send a message that, as the largest social network in the world, it is Facebook’s corporate social responsibility to ensure that people of color are well represented in their workforce and recognize that users of color have a right to be protected from propaganda and misinformation,” he wrote on Dec. 15.
Just two days after he released the statement, the Times and The Washington Post revealed, through two reports commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Russia was a huge purveyor of such propaganda and misinformation on Facebook and it had African-Americans in its sights.
One of the reports, by cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, found that the Russian-based Internet Research Agency amassed millions of social engagements from African-American communities on Facebook alone in an attempt to smear Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and promote Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. The agency even used Facebook to recruit black activists and organize rallies.
The report says that while “other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts, the black community was targeted extensively with dozens.” In some cases, Facebook ads were targeted at users who had shown interest in particular topics, including black history, the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. The most popular of the Russian Instagram accounts was @blackstagram, with 303,663 followers.
Facebook has since agreed to update a civil rights audit it began in spring, vowing to study its impact on people of color and then make changes once it identifies problems. The company has had a hard time dealing with underlying problems in the past, according to Vox.
For groups like the NAACP, however, the vows aren’t enough.
“We know that Facebook is important to many of our supporters, and through the use of this platform, we have been able to engage, educate and mobilize our supporters in ways that were not possible 15 years ago,” Johnson said. “However, Facebook has to do better.”