Facebook Responds to Congressman Cleaver’s Concerns Regarding Racial Bias in Social Media

Nov 30, 2017
Press Release
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg announces major changes to the website

(Washington D.C.) - Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) yesterday received a letter from Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, after a series of concerns were presented to Facebook and Twitter top executives. In the letter, Sandberg specifically stated she is responding to a series of recent letters from Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, and other Members of the CBC.

“I appreciate the CBC’s commitment to asking hard questions and holding us accountable for our progress,” the letter states. “We know that African Americans have been the victims of divisive and abusive content online and we appreciate the leadership the CBC has shown in speaking out in defense of democratic values and in favor of more diversity in technology,” the letter continues.

Last month, Congressman Cleaver and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) sent a letter to Sandberg and Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, encouraging them to take immediate action to combat the spread of racially divisive communications and take seriously the threat of foreign entities’ use of the sites to undermine American democracy.

Congressman Cleaver was also among those CBC members who met with Sandberg to discuss allegations that Russian-backed agencies exploited the company’s system to influence the outcome of the 2016 election through the spread of racial and discriminatory advertisements.

Additionally, in a letter sent to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg last year, Congressman Cleaver joined his colleagues in addressing reports of advertisers on Facebook using multicultural affinity groups to exclude certain racial and ethnic groups when placing housing ads online.

In the response letter, Sandberg stated Facebook is committed to addressing these issues, adding;

“Solving these problems will not happen overnight, but we are committed to addressing and making progress on the issues raised in our meeting and in these letters."

Facebook stated the company would;

• Strengthen policies prohibiting discrimination in advertising

• Provide more education to advertisers about their obligation not to discriminate

• Prohibit the use of the multicultural affinity segments to advertise offers of housing, employment, or credit

• Require advertisers running ads that offer housing, employment or credit to certify compliance with our anti-discrimination policy and with applicable law

In addition to the changes on their site, Facebook recognizes that the company needs to do more to include minorities and women within the workforce, an issue that Congressman Cleaver has urged Facebook and other technology companies to prioritize when filling senior leadership positions.

“Our partnerships with minority-focused organizations have helped us build relationships, and we will continue to invest in these and many other efforts as we push for greater diversity,” Sandberg stated in the letter.

“I am pleased to hear that Facebook has announced changes both within the company and with its online advertisement policies. Ultimately we will see if these measures will hinder racial divisiveness and discrimination,“ said Congressman Cleaver.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. For more information, please contact Heather Frierson at 816-842-4545 or Heather.Frierson@mail.house.gov.