Democrats Call on Facebook to Follow Up on ‘Unkept Promises’

The Democratic National Committee urgedFacebook Inc. to follow through on years of promised changes to its practices regarding disinformation and political discourse, as company leaders prepared to meet with organizers of an advertising boycott.

In a memo sent Tuesday, the DNC said Facebook has a track record of “unkept promises” and “uneven policies.” It said that any pledges the company makes in response to the current round of scrutiny could also end up being disappointing.

“Following the 2016 election, Facebook made a number of public promises of change,” the memo says. “As the company makes new commitments in response to renewed public criticism, it is worth reviewing carefully how the company’s actions measure up to its words.”

The DNC joins other Democrats in expressing concerns about the Facebook platform and its failure to follow through on past commitments.

Hundreds of companies includingStarbucks Corp.,Levi Strauss & Co. andPepsiCo Inc. have stopped advertising on the social network for what they consider a failure to purge harmful content. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg were scheduled to meet Tuesday with leaders from groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League that have organized the July ad boycott they call “Stop Hate for Profit.”

Facebook said it has taken a number of steps since the last presidential election.

“Since 2016, Facebook has worked to secure our platforms from interference, tripled the number of people working on safety and security, and added political advertising transparency and controls, all while fighting misinformation with the help of an unmatched global network of over 70 fact-checking organizations including 10 in the US,” company spokesman Andy Stone said. “This year, we’re launching the largest voting information campaign in American history. While we’re proud of our progress protecting elections, including the 2018 American mid-term elections, we are continuing to invest even more.”

Jen O’Malley Dillon, Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign manager,wrote to the company last week asking for details on how the company would fulfill some of the commitments it’s made just as Facebook began responding publicly to the ad boycott.

But the Biden campaign opted against pausing its advertising on the site, arguing that with just four months until Election Day, it needs to continue reaching out to voters wherever they are.

The DNC’s memo includes examples of instances where it says Facebook hasn’t lived up to its promises. It says the company has failed to limit sensationalism and hyperpolarization through its news feed algorithm and hasn’t run a “comprehensive” fact-checking service.

In addition, the DNC said Facebook launched and then ended a program that gave academics access to data from the site. The committee said it is also concerned about “underdeveloped” and “unevenly applied policies” including the company’s handling of disinformation about voter fraud posted by President Donald Trump’s account.

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