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Celebrities Boycott Facebook And Instagram For A Day Over Disinformation, Hate Speech

A small — though prominent — group of public figures is taking a 24-hour break from the platforms that magnify their celebrity to protest what they see as Facebook's failure to control disinformation and hate speech.

The campaign, #StopHateForProfit, is aimed at Facebook and Instagram and has attracted such disparate individuals as Kim Kardashian West, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Ruffalo.

All have said they will not post to their accounts on Wednesday. Collectively they reach millions of followers.

Cohen is a longtime outspoken critic of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, arguing the platform is a publisher and as such should be held responsible for the material on its site.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks via video conference during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill in July.
Graeme Jennings / AP
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks via video conference during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill in July.

In remarks last November to the Anti-Defamation League, Cohen said, "It's time to finally call these companies what they really are — the largest publishers in history. And here's an idea for them: abide by basic standards and practices just like newspapers, magazines and TV news do every day."

"Facebook — stop spreading the hate, lies and conspiracies that inflame our societies!" Cohen tweeted in advance of the boycott.

Kardashian West, another near-constant presence on social media, tweeted: "I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can't sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart — only to take steps after people are killed. Misinformation shared on social media has a serious impact on our elections and undermines our democracy. Please join me tomorrow when I will be 'freezing' my Instagram and FB account to tell Facebook to #StopHateForProfit."

The immediate impact on Facebook is sure to be minimal, as is the sacrifice the celebrities are making to show their support. But the campaign is part of a larger effort by civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, Color of Change and the ADL to draw attention to Facebook's policies as calls mount for the social media behemoth be regulated or even broken apart in an antitrust action.

"Facebook's role in the Kenosha shooting — which was flagged as violating their policies hundreds of times — is a reminder that changing policies without changing enforcement means little. It reinforces the fact that lives are on the line," the coalition says on its website.

Facebook removed accounts and pages belonging to both the shooter and a group called the Kenosha Guard, which discussed possible violence, but only after they had received much attention.

An advertising " pause" in July, led by the same coalition, involved nearly 1,100 companies. That same month, Facebook released the results of an independent audit that it had commissioned. The report faulted the company for "vexing and heartbreaking decisions," including leaving up posts by President Trump that "clearly violated" the company's policies on hate and violent speech and voter suppression; exempting politicians from third-party fact-checking; and being reluctant to limit misinformation about voting.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Katkov