Michigan governor urges Zuckerberg to enforce community guidelines after hate speech, threats surface

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) demanded that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enforce his platform’s community standards in order to protect elected officials ahead of the 2020 elections, following the surfacing of hate speech against her and other Michigan officials. 

In a letter to Zuckerberg sent earlier this week, Whitmer cited serious concerns around the recent discovery of “hundreds of vitriolic, sexist, and violent posts on Facebook” promoting violence against her and other Michigan lawmakers and emphasized the need for Zuckerberg to “make good” on past promises to make Facebook a safer place.

“The upcoming 2020 election will undoubtedly have its own historic impact on our nation, and you are today’s corporate titan whose time is now to ‘do the right thing’ and ensure violent and hateful speech on your platform does not undermine the security of our elections – and the safety of individuals – this year,” Whitmer wrote. 

The letter was sent after the Detroit Metro Times reported last week that an anti-Whitmer Facebook group was promoting violence against Whitmer, Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and against American Muslims, women and LGTBQ+ communities. 

Many of the posts focused on Tlaib, who is Muslim , with some group members calling on her to be shot or set on fire. 

According to the report, the Facebook page was shut down once the Detroit Metro Times reached out to the page’s creator for comment. 

Whitmer addressed the violent posts in her letter to Zuckerberg, writing that “better enforcement of Facebook’s own community standards” in regard to attacks on political leaders “is needed now more than ever.”

Tlaib tweeted in support of Whitmer sending the letter on Friday, writing that she had “so much appreciation for my Governor’s leadership on ensuring that we don’t look the other way to hateful rhetoric that is calling for violence.”

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Hill that the company “prohibits hate speech and anything that incites or advocates for violence. While we take action against this type of content – in most cases before it’s reported – even a single piece that’s posted is too many. We appreciate Governor Whitmer bringing this to our attention and are in touch with her office as we address these concerns.”

The company’s community standards on violence and incitement note that the platform aims “to prevent potential offline harm that may be related to content on Facebook,” and that it will remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement “when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety.”

Whitmer cited the example of former General Motors Chairman William Knudsen stepping down from his position to lead American production efforts during World War II in calling on Zuckerberg to take action to protect the U.S. against attacks on democracy.

“Mr. Zuckerberg, this country has been good to you, and history is knocking on your proverbial door,” Whitmer wrote. “Are you prepared to rise to the occasion, as Knudsen did, to protect our democracy from ongoing attacks? For the safety and security of many, may your only answer be ‘Yes.’”

Tags Elissa Slotkin Mark Zuckerberg Rashida Tlaib
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