Civil Rights & Consumer Advocacy Orgs Demand Facebook Stop Censorship at Police Request

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August 22, 2016

After Police Killing of Korryn Gaines in Baltimore, Groups Push for Facebook to Adopt Transparent, Publicly-Accountable Policies on Data Censorship

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a coalition of 41 civil rights and consumer advocacy organizations - including SumOfUs, Color Of Change, The Daily Kos, and the Center for Media Justice - are demanding that he clarify his company's position on the deactivation and censorship of Korryn Gaines’ personal Facebook account at the request of police earlier this month.

Gaines, a 23-year-old black woman, was killed by Baltimore County police on Monday, August 1st. Gaines, who was broadcasting the standoff that ultimately led to her death and the injury of her 5-year-old son, had her account deactivated by Facebook during the standoff, at the request of police.

VIEW THE LETTER HERE

The letter, addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demands that the social media giant:

  1. Explain what happened that caused Facebook to shut down Korryn Gaines’ account, and to fully restore the account;
  2. Clarify Facebook’s stance regarding collaboration with police and law enforcement to censor data and video; and
  3. Institute a comprehensive policy regarding the censorship of content and video that protects individual civil liberties, and is transparent and accountable to the public.

“Mark Zuckerberg has been a notable supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and taken a stance on issues of racial justice in the United States in the past few years. It was extremely troubling to see that Facebook actively censored Korryn Gaines’ account and videos of her murder by police at the request of law enforcement officials,” *explained Nicole Carty, campaigner at SumOfUs. *“In recent years, social media and shareable video have been instrumental in raising awareness about the ongoing epidemic of police violence against people of color in the United States. If Facebook decides that it will simply comply with police requests to suspend broadcasts and accounts, it will be shielding police misbehavior from public scrutiny and stifling free speech — not to mention cutting people off from crucial support networks in the midst of deadly police encounters.”

“By bowing to police demands to deactivate Korryn Gaines’s Facebook account and livestream, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are complicit in silencing victims of police violence. Livestreaming platforms like Facebook Live have played a critical role in broadcasting Black voices and holding the police accountable. But, when companies like Facebook compromise the integrity of such platforms, they are burying our community's stories and potentially participating in police cover ups that perpetuate this cycle of violence,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change. “If Facebook truly believes that Black lives matter, it should stop censoring users at the request of police. Facebook’s mission of making the world more open and connected depends on Black voices being heard, not shut up and shut out.”

Earlier this month, 60,000 members of SumOfUs signed onto a petition to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him to clarify his company’s position on the deactivation and censorship of personal profiles at the request of police. A similar petition from Color Of Change has been signed by 72,000 people.

"Mark Zuckerberg should take a moment to #SayHerName: Korryn Gaines. Yet another Black life was lost to police violence. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram can't shield against the bullets, they've helped to expose that reality of police violence against Black communities. Shutting down Korryn Gaines' social media accounts at the request of police sets a dangerous precedent for the relevance of this platform. Facebook and its CEO have said they value Black lives, but their actions must extend beyond rhetoric. Silencing Black voices at the request of the police is a contradiction to those stated values," said Steven Renderos, Organizing Director, Center for Media Justice.

"The American public, and especially disadvantaged communities, have benefitted most from the democratizing of media, using their phones and social media to quickly spread the word about previously ignored injustices. Shutting off those voices because the police or other people in power are inconvenienced is unacceptable," added Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos. "Facebook censored Korryn Gaines’ coverage of her standoff with police, a standoff that led to her death. Facebook can be a valuable resource in ending these tragedies, but only if it allows people of color to highlight police abuses against their community. Hopefully, Facebook can learn from this mistake and ensure, as a matter of corporate policy, that such censorship never happens again."

Additional organizations that have signed onto the letter include: Presente.org; Demand Progress; Oakland Privacy Working Group; Media Alliance; UltraViolet; Million Hoodies Movement for Justice; 18MillionRising; MoveOn.org; Kairos Fellowship; MPowerofChange; National LGBTQ Task Force; Showing up for Racial Justice; Generation Justice; Free Press; Line Break Media; FREE! Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment; Voices for Racial Justice; Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center; Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice; May First/People Link; The People's Press Project; Women, Action and the Media; Women's Media Center Speech Project; Media Mobilizing Project; Common Frequency; Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; ClimateTruth.org; Social Transformation Project; Courage Campaign; CCTV Center for Media & Democracy; The Bully Project; CREDO; The Peoples Summit; BYP100; School for Designing a Society; Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California; and Bill of Rights Defense Committee.