More than 140 scientists funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization started by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, have signed an open letter warning that Facebook’s failure to enforce its own policies undercuts CZI’s mission of building a more “inclusive, just, and healthy future.”
The group specifically called out the proliferation of deliberate misinformation and divisive language on the platform, calling them “antithetical” to the goal of CZI, which is to “use technology to help solve some of our toughest challenges.”
“Social media platforms, like Facebook, have emerged as primary ways of communicating information,” the letter reads. “While they have allowed dissemination of information across the globe, they also facilitate the spread of misinformation. The spread of news that is not vetted for factual accuracy leads to confusion and a mistrust of experts.”
As an example, the letter notes Zuckerberg’s recent decision not to take action on a series of inflammatory Facebook posts by President Donald Trump. While responding to nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd, Trump called protesters “THUGS” and said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” parroting a racist Miami police chief’s quote against 1960s civil rights protests.
The group says Trump’s post “is a clear statement of inciting violence,” which they note violates Facebook’s own policies. (Zuckerberg has argued the phrase does not incite harm ― a conclusion civil rights leaders who met with Zuckerberg called “incomprehensible.”)
“Like many, we were disconcerted to see that Facebook has not followed their own policies in regards to President Trump,” they write, “who has used the Facebook platform to spread both misinformation and incendiary statements.”
The letter concludes by urging Zuckerberg “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.”
In a statement to HuffPost, a CZI spokesperson emphasized its status as a separate entity from Facebook with a separate staff, offices and mission.
“We are grateful for our staff, partners and grantees in this work and we respect their right to voice their opinions, including on Facebook policies,” the statement read.