A new consumer protection lawsuit alleges that Facebook executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have misled Congress and the American public by falsely claiming that the company removes content that violates its policies. Filed Thursday by civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, the lawsuit says the company routinely allows posts that break the rules to stay put. They say his actions allowed anti-Muslim hatred to spill over the platform, causing damage in the real world.
As an example of Facebook’s failures in this area, the organization indicates a list of 26 anti-Muslim hate groups he shared with the company. Of these, 19 are still on the network, and many have names with obvious anti-Muslim overtones, such as “Jihad Watch” and “Understanding the Threat”.
“It’s not, ‘Oh, two or three things fall through the cracks,'” Muslim lawyer Mary Bauer said NPR. “This is ubiquitous content that persists despite academics pointing out, nonprofits reporting it. Facebook has made a decision not to remove this content.” The lawsuit calls on a judge to order Facebook to stop making false and misleading statements about its content moderation policies and practices and to pay “modest” monetary damages.
Facebook community standards explicitly prohibits hate speech. “We don’t allow hate speech on Facebook and work regularly with experts, nonprofits and stakeholders to make sure Facebook is a safe place for everyone, recognizing that anti-Muslim rhetoric can take different forms, ”a Facebook spokesperson told Engadget. “We have invested in AI technologies to eliminate hate speech and we are proactively detecting 97% of what we are removing.”
Critics have consistently accused Facebook of doing too little to prevent hate speech and disinformation to spread on its platforms. In its defense, the company is likely to refer to the recent tools it has put in place to fight against hate speech better, in addition to new policies aimed at imposing stricter penalties on individuals and communities who repeatedly break its rules.