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Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry

Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry
© Greg Nash

Democratic senators on Monday urged Facebook to take action against anti-Muslim bigotry spreading on its platform. 

The letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democrats press Facebook, Twitter on misinformation efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Hillicon Valley: Facebook content moderators demand more workplace protections | Ousted cyber official blasts Giuliani press conference | Tech firms fall short on misinformation targeting Latino vote MORE followed a recently released report by a Muslim advocacy group that concluded the social media giant enables global anti-Muslim hate and violence. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Biden rolls out national security team Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (D-Del.) led 14 Democratic colleagues in calling for the company to “do more” to mitigate the spread of anti-Muslim abuse on the platform. 

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“We recognize that Facebook has announced efforts to address its role in the distribution of anti-Muslim content in some of these areas,” the senators wrote.

“Nevertheless, it is not clear that the company is meaningfully better positioned to prevent further human rights abuses and violence against Muslim minorities today,” they added. 

The letter was supported by a range of advocacy organizations and civil rights groups, including Muslim Advocates which released a report last month about Facebooks’ “complicity” surrounding anti-Muslim bigotry. 

“In country after country, anti-Muslim staff at Facebook support anti-Muslim regimes, amplify anti-Muslim rhetoric, and enable anti-Muslim violence,” Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement when the report was released. 

“Facebook has been warned at every level — by individuals, NGOs, international institutions and by the victims themselves. These are not simple mistakes or oversights, this is complicity,” Khera added. 

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The report recommended Facebook immediately enforce its community standards to address anti-Muslim hate and ban the use of event pages for the purpose of “harassment, organizing, and violence” targeting the Muslim community. The report also recommended Facebook create a senior staff group responsible for the reduction of hate speech and provide regular updates through Facebook’s transparency reports on progress in regards to removing offending content. 

Khera thanked the senators for urging Facebook to take action. 

“With their letter, these senators are raising needed attention to this critical issue. We need to know what Facebook plans to do to end the anti-Muslim hate and violence enabled by their platform—and end it now,” Khera said in a statement. 

The senators requested Facebook respond to a series of questions regarding plans to take action to curb anti-Muslim bigotry by Dec. 16. 

The letter is also signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (Hawaii), Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (Ill.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris shares Thanksgiving recipe: 'During difficult times I have always turned to cooking' Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin MORE (Va.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (N.J.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee MORE (Vt.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (Md.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (Colo.), Gary PetersGary PetersRepublican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff MORE (Mich.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (N.Y.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 MORE (Mass.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Biden decides on pick for secretary of State Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE (Conn.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care Biden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members MORE (I-Vt.). 

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A spokesperson for Facebook was not immediately available for comment. 

The company has recently taken action to address content removal under increasing pressure. Last month, for example, Facebook said it would remove content denying or distorting the Holocaust from its platform after years of Zuckerberg defending the rights of Holocaust deniers to post on the platform. 

"But with rising anti-Semitism, we're expanding our policy to prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust as well," Zuckerberg wrote in blog post when announcing the change. 

In October Facebook also said it was tightening its ban of content spreading the QAnon conspiracy theory, saying it would ban all accounts affiliated with the baseless conspiracy theory. Supporters of QAnon believe without evidence that Trump and his allies are working to expose and execute a cabal of Democrats, media figures and celebrities who are running an international child trafficking ring.