PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted dinner for a delegation of civil rights leaders to hear directly their criticisms of the social media platform and ways to improve.
The private dinner, held Monday night at Zuckerberg’s home in Palo Alto, was reportedly more than two hours long, featured entrees of steak and scallops and was “no holds barred,” according to media reports.
Reverend Al Sharpton was in attendance along with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Participants were asked not to divulge details about the meeting or the executives’ responses, but could talk about the topics they raised and their own reactions.
“We told him that we feel that the exemption for politicians could be used to suppress voting, give wrong messaging and could suppress census taking,” Sharpton said to Reuters.
Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, also attended the meeting and brought examples of anti-Muslim hate speech to show Zuckerberg.
Khera pointed to a post by North Dakota state senator Oley Larsen falsely claiming Rep. Ilhan Omar attended an Al Qaeda training camp. In a post by New Jersey school board member D.P Leonard, he wrote “My life would be complete if she/they die,” in reference to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
Khera also showed a meme posted by Tennessee County commissioner Barry West showing a man with one eye closed aiming a shotgun into the camera, with the caption “HOW TO WINK AT A MUSLIM.”
“We’ve seen how politicians regularly traffic in anti-Muslim stereotypes,” said Khera. “And if Facebook is basically willing to say, ‘Hands off, we’re not going to be a referee,’ this is not just about politics for us, this about endangering people’s lives by allowing this kind of hate content to proliferate.”
“I felt like I was heard, and I am somewhat hopeful that after this meeting with Mark, and with his continued personal involvement, we will begin to see Facebook take a renewed interest and attention to these concerns,” said Khera.
Facebook released a statement, saying, “We’re grateful that these prominent leaders of the civil rights community took the time to attend a private dinner hosted by Mark and Sheryl. They discussed a range of important issues and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”
Also at Facebook headquarters Tuesday, Media Matters, based in Washington D.C., chartered a private plane to tow a banner that read “FACEBOOK HEART RIGHT WING LIES” above the Menlo Park campus.
Angelo Carusone, MMFA president, said the action was meant to call out the company for allowing political ads with false information, and also for partnering with the far right website Breitbart News.
“We’re gonna take to the skies, we’re gonna take it directly to their home court and we’re gonna build the pressure necessary. And Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg in particular, needs to start listening to its own employees and to the larger public. There’s a lot at stake here,” said Carusone.