- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said Facebook doesn’t get “any credit” for its role in major social movements, according to leaked audio obtained by The Verge.
- “The brave women who spoke out on Me Too, the brave people who spoke out on Black Lives Matter, the brave people who organized the Women’s March — they needed the tool,” Sandberg reportedly told Facebook interns in July. “There’s a reason this is happening now and it didn’t happen before.”
- Facebook has played a role in many movements, like Me Too and Black Lives Matter, over the years. But it’s also hosted misinformation and conspiracy theories, and posts on the platform often paint an incorrect picture of society’s sentiments.
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Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook doesn’t get “any credit” for its role in major social movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too.
The Verge’s Casey Newton on Wednesday published a trove of leaked recordings from internal Facebook Q&As over the past several months, including an annual session Sandberg has with Facebook interns in July. During the event, Sandberg addressed Facebook’s role in social movements, both as a communication tool and a platform for raising money for causes.
Sandberg’s comments appeared to express frustration that Facebook isn’t acknowledged for how it helps activists, while also seeming to position Facebook as the reason these movements have taken hold.
“We don’t get credit for any of those movements,” she said, according to The Verge. “We don’t get credit for any of it. But the brave women who spoke out on Me Too, the brave people who spoke out on Black Lives Matter, the brave people who organized the Women’s March — they needed the tool. There’s a reason this is happening now and it didn’t happen before.”
Facebook has become a key platform for organizing events like protests and marches. In 2017, the Women’s March on Washington was organized on Facebook, launched out of a post by a former lawyer named Teresa Shook. Following the election of President Donald Trump, Shook posted in the Facebook group “Pantsuit Nation,” a pro-Hillary Clinton group, that someone should organize a pro-women march, according to the Washington Post. The event blew up overnight, and on January 21 as many as 470,000 people marched in Washington, DC.
Facebook played a role in the Me Too movement as well, when in 2017, survivors of sexual assault and harassment took to social media to show their support with the hashtag “#MeToo.” The movement was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke, but the hashtag went viral after sexual assault and harassment allegations emerged against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the case of Me Too, Facebook was one platform for users to share their stories, but the hashtag blew up on other platforms as well, particularly Twitter.
In the case of Black Lives Matter, the phrase originated on Facebook: In July 2013, community organizer Alicia Garza used the phrase in a Facebook post following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin. In recent times, Facebook has been used to organize Black Lives Matter protests, and when George Floyd was killed by white police officers in Minneapolis, the full video of his death was posted to Facebook.
Particularly when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, however, Facebook has also hosted extremist content and conspiracy theories, and the type of content that becomes popular on the platform isn’t always reflective of society’s sentiments. As The New York Times’ Kevin Roose points out, though a majority of people in the US support the Black Lives Matter movement, The Times found that in June, 7 out of 10 of the most-shared Black Lives Matter posts over the month prior criticized the movement.
In July, an internal civil rights audit found that the company hadn’t done enough to address civil rights issues on the platform, particularly around political speech.
“While the audit process has been meaningful and has led to some significant improvements in the platform, we have also watched the company make painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights,” the report said.