Statements
2020

Broad Coalition Urges Facebook To #StopGroupRecs Until Election Results Are Certified

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2020
Contact: press@accountabletech.org

 

“64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools” –– 2016 Facebook Presentation

Tuesday, more than a dozen organizations – whose advocacy spans across civil rights, social justice, democracy protection, media accountability, and tech reform – launched a campaign demanding that Facebook turn off its toxic Group recommendation engine until the U.S. election results are certified, jointly issuing the following warning:

Facebook Groups pose a singular threat to this election season. They’ve become hidden breeding grounds for disinformation campaigns and organizing platforms for extremists. And Facebook’s AI actively grows these dangerous networks by promoting them to vulnerable users.

Facebook has prioritized Groups in recent years despite red flags from their own researchers and incessant warnings from experts. The real-world consequences have been devastating: they’ve turbocharged viral conspiracy theories about coronavirus; mainstreamed violent extremist movements; created echo chambers of racism, and more.

As Facebook concluded themselves, “our recommendation systems grow the problem.” While they ostensibly have “baseline standards” to prevent this, even explicit promises to stop recommending clear categories of Groups like QAnon and Boogaloo have repeatedly proven empty.

In 2016, foreign adversaries exploited Facebook Groups to sow chaos and inflame tensions around the election, and domestic bad actors have followed suit. In 2020, we’ve already seen private Groups being used to promote political violenceseed conspiracy theories about mail-in ballots, and push hoaxes to incite local vigilantes

Election season is already upon us. The potential to weaponize Groups to spread disinformation, suppress voters, organize intimidation efforts, or incite violence will only grow. Facebook must #StopGroupRecs until after the U.S. election results are certified.

  • Accountable Tech
  • Avaaz
  • Center for Humane Tech
  • Common Cause
  • Kairos Action
  • Let America Vote
  • MapLight
  • Media Matters for America
  • Mozilla
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America
  • SumOfUs
  • Tech Transparency Project
  • UltraViolet

This diverse coalition is joined by thousands of grassroots supporters who have already signed Mozilla’s petition to #StopGroupRecs launched just days ago. Accountable Tech’s new landing page and companion petition for this campaign can be found here.

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