Facebook Urged to Change Leadership by Group of Nonprofits

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc., reeling from criticism about Russian influence campaigns on its platform, now faces calls for changes to its top management from a collection of 31 civil rights groups.

Organizations including Muslim Advocates, MoveOn, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National LGBTQ Task Force co-signed a letter asking Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to step down from his role as board chairman. It also requested that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg leave the board entirely. The groups are calling for three new directors to be added, representing their diverse user base, and the dismissal of policy executives Joel Kaplan and Kevin Martin.

Facebook Urged to Change Leadership by Group of Nonprofits

“We write to express our profound disappointment regarding Facebook’s role in generating bigotry and hatred towards vulnerable communities and civil rights organizations,” the group wrote. “The public has given your company the benefit of the doubt for far too long and ignorance is no longer an excuse. It’s become abundantly clear that, as currently constituted, your leadership team is unable to adequately address the valid concerns of the civil rights community.”

It’s the latest in a steady drumbeat of criticism of the company, as more is revealed about the Russian campaign. On Monday, a report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee explained that on Facebook and Instagram, Russian operatives ran a campaign more extensive than previously understood, targeting specific groups of users, including black Americans, veterans and feminists.

Facebook said it undertook a civil rights audit, led by Laura Murphy, a civil rights and civil liberties leader, in May. As a result, the company updated its policy to expressly ban misrepresentations about how to vote. Other misinformation related to voting is sent to third-party fact-checkers for review, Facebook said in a blog post written by Sandberg.

“The civil rights audit is deeply important to me, and it’s one of my top priorities for 2019,” Sandberg wrote. “I’m committed to overseeing its progress and making sure that it is a well-resourced, cross-company effort.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.