Kim Kardashian West and other celebrities urge Facebook to do more to combat hate speech


Facebook is in the hot seat yet again over how it handles hate speech.

Angela Lang/CNET

Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry and other celebrities with many millions of social media followers plan to “freeze” their accounts on Facebook and its photo site, Instagram, on Wednesday as part of a campaign by civil rights groups to get Facebook to do more to combat hate speech.

“I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart — only to take steps after people are killed,” Kardashian West wrote in a tweet Tuesday. Kardashian West has 188 million followers on Instagram, the photo service owned by Facebook, and more than 30 million followers on Facebook. 

Perry posted something similar Tuesday on her Instagram account, which has more than 107 million followers. “I love sharing my music and my life with you on Instagram and Facebook, but TBH I can’t sit idly by while these platforms turn a blind eye to groups and posts spreading hateful disinformation and intentional confusion,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which is led by organizations including the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change, wants Facebook to take 10 steps to tackle hate speech on the platform. Some of the recommendations include allowing users who deal with severe hate speech and harassment to talk to a live Facebook employee, and hiring a C-suite level executive with a civil rights background. 

The groups first announced the campaign in June, and more than 1,200 businesses and nonprofits said they’d pause advertising on the platform in July. The campaign has already tarnished Facebook’s image as the company tries to show that it’s taking hate speech seriously.

Facebook has repeatedly pushed back against allegations that it profits from hate speech, but the company acknowledged there’s more to do. Facebook has rules against posting hate speech, but it’s been under fire for how it interprets its policies or for not acting quickly enough. In the first six months of this year, the company took action against more than 32 million posts for violating its rules against hate speech. Most of those posts were taken down before users reported them, according to a report released by the company. Facebook declined to comment on Tuesday about the upcoming Instagram freeze. 

The social network’s efforts haven’t been enough to satisfy its toughest critics. Facebook received more criticism for failing to pull down an August event that called for violence, created by a militia group called the Kenosha Guard. The organizers of the event removed it after a fatal shooting at a Wisconsin protest, and Facebook apologized for mistakenly saying that the company had pulled it down. The social network did remove a page for the Kenosha Guard following the shooting. Both the page and event violated Facebook’s rules that bar groups that pose a public safety threat from discussing potential violence. 

“Our organizations as well as other experts have been warning Facebook for years about the problem of dangerous, potentially violent groups and individuals using Facebook. But time and time again they’ve failed to listen,” the coalition behind the Stop Hate for Profit campaign said in a statement.

This week, the campaign urged celebrities and other users to freeze their Instagram accounts on Wednesday for a day to send Facebook a message. Nearly two dozen celebrities are participating in the freeze, and that number continues to grow, according to the campaign.

Participants include Kim Kardashian West, Sacha Baron Cohen, Katy Perry, Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Ruffalo, Judd Apatow, Ashton Kutcher, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Jason Alexander, Kate Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael B. Jordan, Rosario Dawson, Ed Helmes, Isla Fisher and Scooter Braun.

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