Senators question Facebook over disinformation and hate speech


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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s full coverage of the 2020 elections.

Facebook is again being questioned over its disinformation policy by senators who say the social media giant will play a “critical” part in addressing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In a letter Wednesday from Sens. Kamala Harris, Robert Menendez and Richard Blumenthal, Facebook is being asked about how it handles hate speech, discriminatory targeting and the threat of disinformation to voting and civil rights ahead of the 2020 election.

“With federal, state, and local elections slated for November 2020, Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that its platforms do not become a hotbed of disinformation,” the letter says. 

While recognizing Facebook’s recent steps to address COVID-19 misinformation, the senators said they are “deeply troubled” by the social media platform not addressing human rights and civil rights issues like hate speech and discriminatory targeted advertising including ads from political candidates that Facebook won’t fact check. “These failings present real danger to people of color, especially with regard to protecting voting rights in the upcoming 2020 elections,” they said.

The letter adds that Facebook has failed to prevent fake cures and conspiracy theories centered around COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Sens. Harris, Menendez and Blumenthal have asked Facebook whether it will reconsider its fact-checking policy of politicians’ posts before the elections; whether it will permit posts about COVID-19 and the election process by politicians that are factually inaccurate; how Facebook is addressing hate speech; like misinformation on Asian-Americas; how it reviews content that may cause  voter suppression; and whether it will add a civil and human rights expert top its board.

They expect answers from Facebook by May 22. Facebook said it plans to respond.

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