Aug 6, 2020 - Technology

Female members of Congress to Facebook: Do better

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies via video before Congress.

Photo: Graeme Jennings via Getty Images

Facebook must do better to protect women in politics, who face a barrage of sexism, hate and harassment on the platform, members of the Democratic Women Caucus including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to the social network Thursday.

Context: Facebook, under heavy scrutiny for misinformation, privacy and antitrust concerns, recently kept a doctored video of Pelosi up, though fact checkers labeled it as "partly false." The platform came under fire for not removing a doctored video of Pelosi in 2019 as well.

The lawmakers ask Facebook in a letter to:

  • quickly remove posts that threaten candidates or glorify violence against women;
  • eliminate hate speech targeting women;
  • remove offending accounts; and
  • remove manipulated images and videos.

What they're saying: "We are imploring Facebook to do more to protect the ability of women to engage in democratic discourse and to foster a safe and empowering space for women," reads the letter, led by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and signed by more than 30 House Democrats, plus Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and dozens of international lawmakers.

  • "Make no mistake, these tactics, which are used on your platform for malicious intent, are meant to silence women, and ultimately undermine our democracies," the letter adds. "It is no wonder women frequently cite the threat of rapid, widespread, public attacks on personal dignity as a factor deterring them from entering politics."
  • Cindy Southworth, Facebook’s head of women’s safety, pledged to work with policymakers on their concerns, saying in a statement, "Abuse of women on the internet is a serious problem, one we tackle in a variety of ways — through technology that identifies and removes potentially abusive content before it happens, by enforcing strict policies, and by talking with experts to ensure we stay ahead of new tactics.”

The group wants to meet with Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to "discuss this in greater detail, and ask them to implement the requests we made in this letter," Speier said Thursday at an event on social media and misogyny.

  • "Sandberg is a well-known feminist. She has got to appreciate the power that Facebook has in terms of being the purveyor of misogynistic comments," Speier said. "I’m hopeful she is particular will take this on as a campaign within Facebook."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from a Facebook official.

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