Press Release

Public Knowledge Stands with Civil Rights Groups by Refusing Facebook Funding

June 9, 2020 , , , ,
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Today, Public Knowledge announces that it will not accept funding from Facebook for any of the organization’s programs or initiatives. The decision follows a June 1 meeting between Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and civil rights leaders to discuss the company’s choice to leave up without moderation comments made by President Trump, including one in which he posted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in reference to protests over George Floyd’s death. Twitter, meanwhile, labeled the content with a disclaimer that it “glorified violence.”

The controversy follows another recent tweet in which the President made false claims about mail-in voting, which Twitter publicly fact-checked. Thus far, Facebook has disregarded the social network’s obligation to fight misinformation and failed to demonstrate an understanding of voter suppression and how the platform is uplifting President Trump’s call for violence against protesters. Public Knowledge is disappointed in Facebook’s decision to sidestep its responsibility to support democratic processes and constitutionally protected protests on its platform and stands in solidarity with the civil rights community, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Color of Change, by refusing to accept Facebook funding.

The following can be attributed to Chris Lewis, President and CEO of Public Knowledge:

“Public Knowledge has a long history at the forefront of defending free speech and the First Amendment online. We also support laws, like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that allow social networks to moderate their platforms freely, to take stands on controversial issues, and to serve as vehicles of free expression. I believe that different platforms can have different moderation policies. However, platforms shouldn’t hide behind the First Amendment as an excuse to allow hate, misinformation, and abuse to run rampant on their services, particularly when they hold such a dominant position in the marketplace. Doing so distorts what the First Amendment means, and ignores the influence that moderation has on our civic conversations and system of democracy.

“We believe Facebook can do better, and we call upon the company to play a constructive role in allowing a civil discourse online. That does not include turning a blind eye to messages that intimidate or suppress voters, spread misinformation, or endanger individuals and democracy.”