Sci & Tech

Scientists Urge Facebook to Do Better

Scientists Urge Facebook to Do Better
Scientists Urge Facebook to Do Better

Scientists funded by Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy are calling on Facebook Inc. to create and enforce stricter policies on misinformation and harmful language following the social network’s handling of US President Donald Trump’s posts suggesting violence against protesters.
Zuckerberg received a letter on Saturday signed by 143 scientists from some of the world’s most prestigious research institutions, including Stanford University and Harvard University, all of whom have been funded by money from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the chief executive’s philanthropic arm with his wife Priscilla Chan, Bloomberg reported.
CZI’s mission to “build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone” doesn’t align with Facebook’s actions, the scientists write in the letter. 
“The spread of deliberate misinformation and divisive language is directly antithetical to this goal, and we are therefore deeply concerned at the stance Facebook has taken.”
As countrywide protests erupted over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Twitter Inc. put a warning label on a post by Trump that said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. 
The tweet echoed a remark made in 1967 by a white Miami police chief when announcing tougher policing policies for the Florida city’s African American neighborhoods.
Facebook declined to take action on the same statement by Trump, posted to Instagram and Facebook, saying it wasn’t inciting violence.
Employees of the social media giant protested with a virtual walkout from their jobs and several public resignations. Nearly three dozen former employees wrote an open letter to Zuckerberg, published in the New York Times this week.
In Saturday’s letter, the scientists pressured Zuckerberg to act: “We urge you to consider stricter policies on misinformation and incendiary language that harms people or groups of people, especially in our current climate that is grappling with racial injustice.”



Promise of Change

Zuckerberg on Friday said he would consider changes to the policy that led the company to leave up controversial posts by Trump during recent demonstrations protesting the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody, a partial concession to critics.
Zuckerberg did not promise specific policy changes in a Facebook post, days after staff members walked off the job, some claiming he kept finding new excuses not to challenge Trump.
“I know many of you think we should have labeled the President’s posts in some way last week,” Zuckerberg wrote, referring to his decision not to remove Trump’s message containing the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
“We’re going to review our policies allowing discussion and threats of state use of force to see if there are any amendments we should adopt,” he wrote. “We’re going to review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions.”
Zuckerberg said Facebook would be more transparent about its decision-making on whether to take down posts, review policies on posts that could cause voter suppression and would look to build software to advance racial justice, led by important lieutenants.
At a staff meeting earlier this week, employees questioned Zuckerberg’s stance on Trump’s post.
Zuckerberg, who holds a controlling stake in Facebook, has maintained that while he found Trump’s comments “deeply offensive”, they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence.
Facebook’s policy is either to take down a post or leave it up, without any other options. Now, Zuckerberg said, other possibilities would be considered.
However, he added, “I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialize on content we don’t like even if it doesn’t violate our policies.”

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