Facebook under more pressure from civil rights groups with planned Instagram 'freeze'

Stop Hate for Profit previously called on advertisers to boycott the social media giant in July

Civil rights groups are pressing Facebook to make more changes to its platform with an "Instagram freeze" Wednesday.

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The Stop Hate for Profit campaign — a coalition of civil rights groups including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League — is hosting a "week of action" on Instagram to demand Facebook "address racism, hate and disinformation on its platform," according to a press release.

"Facebook wants you to believe that the company's role in the death of the protestors in Kenosha was just an 'operational mistake.' But it wasn't. It is just the latest casualty of Facebook's choices designed to maximize profits," the coalition said in a statement.

The statement references a self-declared "militia" group on Facebook, the "Kenosha Guard," that called on vigilantes to patrol the streets of Kenosha, Wis., during an Aug. 25 protest, when two people were shot to death.

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Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide following the shootings. Facebook told FOX Business in an Aug. 27 statement that it took down the "Kenosha Guard" group and Rittenhouse's Instagram and Facebook accounts after the shootings.

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The spokesperson also said Facebook has found no evidence of a connection between the Facebook group and Rittenhouse.

The campaign added that "experts have been warning Facebook for years about the problem of dangerous, potentially violent groups and individuals using Facebook. But time and time again they’ve failed to listen."

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The Instagram freeze will take place on Wednesday, when the groups involved in the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, as well as its supporters, will pause all Instagram posts until Thursday.

For the remainder of the week, civil rights groups and their supporters will publish Instagram posts that call out Facebook for "inciting violence, spreading racism and hate, and contributing to electoral disinformation," according to the press release.

Stop Hate for Profit previously called on advertisers to boycott the social media giant in July; brands including Coca-Cola, Adidas, Disney, CVS, Ford, Verizon, Walgreens and others paused ads on Facebook and Instagram during the boycott. Some brands resumed while others stayed away.

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The campaign's actions against Facebook come amid civil unrest across the U.S. after several officer-involved shootings of Black men, including George Floyd, who died in May, and Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed in August after a White officer shot him seven times while attempting to arrest him.

Facebook has made changes to its political advertising and post-flagging policies in recent months. The website published the results of an independently conducted civil rights audit on July 8 that found Facebook was not doing enough to eliminate misinformation.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking at the Paley Center in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

"Facebook's failure to remove the Trump voting-related posts and close enforcement gaps seems to reflect a statement of values that protecting free expression is more important than other stated company values," the auditors wrote in reference to Facebook's decision to not remove a post from the president saying mail-in ballots are tied to voter fraud.

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Civil rights groups leading the Stop Hate for Profit campaign met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in July but were left frustrated after Zuckerberg did not agree to meet any of their 10 demands to address diversity and hate on the platform after Floyd's death.

Facebook says it uses human and algorithmic moderators to identify and remove hate speech and disinformation on the platform.

The social media giant took action against 22.5 million pieces of hate speech content in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 9.6 million in the first quarter, according to its Community Standards Enforcement Report.

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