SANTA MONICA, CA — A coalition of privacy and consumer groups today warned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the integrity of elections, in this country and internationally, is at stake, unless Facebook stops electioneering and retains Jimmy Carter to audit Facebook’s influence on elections.
In a letter to Zuckerberg, six groups called upon Facebook to cease all campaign contributions and electioneering activity until they ensure the integrity of all apps on the platform, and until Facebook can provide public transparency with respect to all election-related activities. The letter from Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of California, Californians for Consumer Privacy and Constitutional Alliance also called upon Facebook to retain an auditor, such as Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, to monitor Facebook’s management of users’ personal information with respect to election advertisements.
“A company whose platform is self-admittedly powerful enough to influence elections, must stay out of them,”
the groups wrote Zuckerberg, invoking his own words about the need to up the company’s game and reform its platform for the coming elections.
Read a copy of the groups’ letter here.
“Facebook clearly has a conflict of interest,” the groups went on. “By sharing users’ deeply private information, you sold advertisements which enabled foreign actors to manipulate voters and influence our elections. Worse, through contributions to candidates and causes, Facebook itself is directly involved in politics.”
In 2016, Facebook gave $4.6 million to federal candidates and $1.1 million to California candidates. Just last month, Facebook contributed $200,000 to opposing the California Consumer Privacy Act, which would require businesses to 1) tell users what personal information is being collected; 2) allow users to choose to stop the sale of their personal information; and 3) be liable for breaches of personal information caused by corporate negligence.
“How can we be certain that in the next cycle it won’t be the Russians we are concerned with, but Facebook itself because it chooses to support or oppose only candidates and causes that help its bottom line, and minimize regulation?” asks the coalition in the letter.
Specifically, the groups asked that Facebook:
1. Cease all campaign contributions and electioneering activity immediately until Facebook has ensured the integrity of all the apps on your platform, and until you can ensure total transparency with respect to all election-related activities.
2. Retain Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, or another independent election monitor, to audit Facebook and its management of users’ personal information with respect to election advertisements, so that the world can be sure Facebook is not divulging personal information to allow psychographic profiles to individually target voters.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, we call on you to restore users’ trust in Facebook, instead of allowing it to be used to polarize an already dangerously divided world. Bringing in the Carter Center would be a great first step on this path,” the letter concluded.
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