Dozens of scientists doing research funded by Mark Zuckerberg say Facebook should not let US President Donald Trump use the social media platform to “disseminate both misinformation and inflammatory statements.” The researchers, including 60 professors from major US research institutions, wrote to the CEO of Facebook on Saturday asking Zuckerberg to “consider tougher policies on misinformation and inflammatory language that hurts people,” especially during the current turmoil over racial injustice.
The letter calls for the spread of “deliberate disinformation and divisive language” contrary to the researchers’ goals of using technology to prevent and eradicate disease, improve children’s education and reform the criminal justice system.
Their mission “is contrary to some of the positions Facebook has taken, so we encourage them to be more on the side of the truth and on the right side of history, as we said in the letter,” said Debora Marks. from Harvard Medical School, one of the three teachers who organized it.
The others are Martin Kampmann of the University of California at San Francisco and Jason Shepherd of the University of Utah. All benefit from grants from a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative program to prevent, cure and treat neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
They said the letter had more than 160 signatories. Shepherd said that about 10% were employees of foundations led by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
The letter specifically objects to Zuckerberg’s decision not to at least report that Trump’s post “when looting begins, filming begins” in response to unrest in Minneapolis as a violation of Facebook’s community standards videotape murder of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer. The letter’s authors called the publication “a clear statement inciting violence.”
Twitter had both flagged and demoted a Trump tweet using the same language.
In a statement, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative noted that the philanthropic organization is separate from Facebook and said “we are grateful to our staff, partners and beneficiaries” and “respect their right to express their opinions, including on Facebook policies. ”
Some Facebook employees have publicly opposed Zuckerberg’s refusal to remove or label the misleading or inflammatory publications of Trump and other politicians. But Zuckerberg – who controls the majority of the company’s voting shares – has so far refused.
Zuckerberg said in an article on Friday that he would review “potential options for dealing with violating or partially violating content outside of binary abandonment or withdrawal decisions”
“I know many of you think we should have labeled the president’s positions somehow in the past week,” he wrote. “Our current policy is that if the content is actually inciting violence, then the right mitigation is to delete that content – don’t let people keep seeing it behind a flag.” There are no exceptions to this policy for politicians or the news. “