After a series of hacks that impacted millions of users, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is calling for a one-week protest against Facebook.
The organization is encouraging its members and partners to log out of Facebook on Tuesday to protest multiple data breaches on the platform that targeted African American users specifically. The NAACP is using the hashtag #LogOutFacebook on platforms like Twitter for visibility.
“We recognize that Facebook is now a mainstay in communication,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson told AfroTech. “We want this protest to be a dialogue that escalates into action [from Facebook].”
The NAACP also wants users to sign out of WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook’s other properties; however, the protest does not include Twitter, which was also used in Russian election interference efforts. According to the New York Times, Russia’s 2017 efforts focused heavily on Instagram as the platform gained more popularity and users.
This week, the New York Times published a report outlining how African Americans were specifically targeted during Russia’s social media influence campaign with fake pages and accounts. In some cases, activists were even paid to hold rallies and distribute content. The Times report also noted that Russians used interest in African American history and culture to try to manipulate black users on Facebook’s platforms. One Instagram account, @blackstagram, had over 300,000 followers.
Johnson said that Facebook became the main target for the protest because of its involvement with partisan strategy firms. Facebook has been under fire for hiring opposition research from Definers Public Affairs on George Soros, who has been a heavy critic of the company.
“The firm began targeting African American users and that is something that we all need to take note of,” Johnson said`
Facebook has been trying to improve its reputation regarding privacy following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where a British firm used the personal data of 50 million Facebook users to help elect President Donald Trump. Facebook has revamped some of its privacy tools since then and has hosted events to show users how to better protect their privacy.
Last week, Facebook hosted a Privacy Pop-Up in New York City to provide users with in-person assistance on how to protect their information on the platform. It demonstrated how users can control ad preferences and dictate which companies can advertise to them. It also showcased an audience selector tool where users can default audience preferences in their privacy settings.
In September, Facebook experienced the largest breach in the company’s history that impacted nearly 30 million accounts. Users’ personal information including birthdays, email addresses and education were taken during the hack.
Last week, Facebook reported that it found a bug in its system that gave third-party apps too much access to users’ photos. The bug was caused by an error in a code update for the photo API and may have impacted up to 6.8 million users in total.
Da’Quan Marcelle Love, a life member of the NAACP who is on the organization’s Board of Directors said that for him, staying off Facebook for a week will not be easy, but it is a necessary sacrifice. In addition to focusing on Facebook’s data breaches, the NAACP has also called the company out for its lack of diversity.
“Seeing that Blacks use Facebook at rates higher than any other group, yet only account for roughly 3 percent of Facebook’s workforce, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to send a clear message,” Love said.
The NAACP has also expressed concern over voter suppression tactics on Facebook.
“Facebook has been used as a tool to foster racial hatred which is extremely problematic, especially when it is used to suppress the Black vote,” Johnson said.
Ahead of the midterm elections, Facebook began removing accounts and posts aimed at misinformation about voting times and locations.
“We updated our policy to expressly ban misrepresentations about how to vote, such as claims that you can vote using an online app, and statements about whether a vote will be counted,” Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post. “Other misinformation related to voting – including false claims of polling place closures, long lines, and wait times – is proactively sent to third-party fact-checkers for review.”
Sandberg addressed some of the NAACP’s concerns in a blog post, giving an update on the company’s civil rights audit. The audit addressed voter suppression on the platform, fairness in artificial intelligence and algorithms, protecting users from hate speech, and more.
“Facebook is committed to working with leading US civil rights organizations to strengthen and advance civil rights on our service,” Sandberg said in the post. “We know that we need to do more: to listen, look deeper and take action to respect fundamental rights.”
The NAACP has returned a recent donation from Facebook as part of the protest.