October 22, 2021

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Latino civil rights group ends ties with Facebook following whistleblower report

Data scientist and whistleblower Frances Haugen last week revealed “copied documents containing Facebook’s internal research, which she says includes ample evidence that the company is lying when it claims to have made significant inroads in combating the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and extremist conspiracism on its platform,” Daily Kos’ Dave Neiwert wrote.

This can have a profound negative impact on Latino communities, which are “more likely to get, consume, and share online misinformation,” NBC News reported earlier this month. That report cites the massive use of free messaging apps like WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, by younger Latinos in particular. The app serves as a critical communication tool, especially for those with loved ones across borders.

“Misinformation poses a threat to Hispanics, who are particularly vulnerable due to a greater reliance on social media and messaging platforms,” Nielsen said in a Sept. report. “Latinos are avid users of these apps because of the trust and intimacy they offer and their unique role within the community to connect people to family and friends both in the U.S. and abroad. The outsized use of this technology also makes these apps prime for spreading misinformation, particularly among Latino communities.”

“We have called attention repeatedly to concerns about the negative impact that the proliferation of hate and misinformation on the platform has had on the Latino community,” Murguía said in the organization’s statement. “We know now that Facebook’s failure to adequately address those concerns was deliberate and resulted in even greater levels of hate and misinformation on the site.”

Neiwert wrote that “Facebook hired Haugen and others into its new Civic Integrity section prior to the election as part of the public campaign to blunt criticism over how it handles political extremism and misinformation … But promptly after the election, it disbanded the section and abandoned that work.” Haugen said on 60 Minutes that “[a]s soon as the election was over, they turned them back off, or they changed the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety. And that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me.”

To others as well. “Our experience over the past few years has shown that it’s not possible for Facebook to hold itself accountable,” Murguía continued. “Going forward, we will be supporting both regulatory and legislative efforts to provide public oversight to ensure long-overdue and much-needed transparency and accountability of social media platforms, starting with Facebook.” 

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