UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, has severed ties with Facebook after a former employee at the social media company leaked thousands of internal documents showing that Facebook executives were aware of the negative impacts their platforms have on certain users.
Among the wide-ranging whistleblower revelations from former employee Frances Haugen this week was about how Facebook responded to research showing that a 2018 algorithm change meant to create “meaningful social interactions” unintentionally amplified angry and incendiary content that consequently heated up political discourse worldwide.
UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía deemed the revelations as “the breaking point” forcing the organization to cut all corporate ties with Facebook “in an effort to better serve and protect the Latino communities we advocate for.”
Such algorithms have also helped amplify the viral nature of misleading headlines and unscrutinized sources, according to a recent Nielsen report published last week.
“We have called attention repeatedly to concerns about the negative impact that the proliferation of hate and misinformation on the platform has had on the Latino community. We know now that Facebook’s failure to adequately address those concerns was deliberate and resulted in even greater levels of hate and misinformation on the site,” Murguía said in a statement Friday.
The Nielsen report on U.S. Latinos shows that Latino audiences are more likely to receive, consume and share fake news and misinformation online compared to the general population.
“Misinformation poses a threat to Hispanics, who are particularly vulnerable due to a greater reliance on social media and messaging platforms,” the report reads.
“Going forward, we will be supporting both regulatory and legislative efforts to provide public oversight to ensure long-overdue and much-needed transparency and accountability of social media platforms, starting with Facebook,” said Murguía.
After Haugen’s revelations, Facebook spokesperson Lena Pietsch responded to the allegations in a statement saying, “Every day our teams have to balance protecting the ability of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place.”
“We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content. To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true,” Pietsch said.