By Brenda Victoria Castillio, President & CEO of National Hispanic Media Coalition
From the moment Trump disgustingly labeled Mexicans as criminals and rapists in 2016, our Latinx community has fallen further into the shadows as conservatives are emboldened to act in hate.
In recent years, hate crimes against the Latinx community have been on the rise. In fact, according to the FBI, hate crimes targeting Latinx victims increased 41 percent between 2016 and 2019, with a steady increase for the last three consecutive years. There is a very real correlation between hate rhetoric and hate crimes. Janice Iwama, researcher and professor at American University, found a distinct correlation between the rise in anti-immigrant, anti-Latinx rhetoric and legislation and the rise in hate crimes against Latinx in Los Angeles in recent years.
It’s no secret that anti-Latinx and anti-immigrant rhetoric thrives in social media. Hate, White Supremacy, and anti-Latinx messages, graphics, and ads continue to flourish on Facebook. Facebook has done very little to address organized hate that targets, harasses, dehumanizes, and attacks Latinx on their platform.
But this is not just about online hate; our lives are at stake. Facebook has a real problem with defining hate, identifying hate, and acting to address hate on the social media platform. Armed protests in front of mosques or to counter stay-at-home orders often use Facebook to organize and spread awareness of their campaigns. Facebook, in response, typically takes days if not weeks to take down hateful content.
Domestic terrorism, like white supremacy, is thriving and spreading on platforms like Facebook. This was clearly demonstrated in El Paso, Texas in August 2019, where a white nationalist shooter murdered 23 shoppers and injured 22 others after disseminating his manifesto online, calling for an end to a “Latino invasion” ahead of his trek across Texas to murder Mexicans. Where did this hate and rhetoric come from? Perhaps from one of the 2,200 ads the Trump Administration ran on Facebook referring to Latinx immigrants as “an invasion.” Unfortunately the tragedy in Texas was not an isolated incident; the Gilroy, California shooter posted to instagram praising a white supremacist manifesto the same day he opened fire on the Garlic Festival crowd. Dozens of Latinx have been murdered at the hands of white supremacists who use Facebook to build power. Facebook is providing a pay-to-play platform for white supremacists to consume, spread, and organize hate and dehumanizing messages about Latinx.
It wasn’t until recently that Facebook even came to the table to engage about its practice of profiting off of hate-filled advertising – largely as a result of more than a thousand advertisers joining the Stop Hate For Profit campaign to boycott the platform for the month of July. Led by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, LULAC, Common Sense, Color of Change, Free Press, Sleeping Giants, and Mozilla, Stop Hate For Profit has seen little movement from Facebook, despite meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg at the beginning of July.
Facebook’s long pattern of complacency amid racial injustices is what birthed the Stop Hate For Profit campaign in the first place. Civil rights organizations leading the cause decided to band together after the social media platform repeatedly made empty promises and gaslit requests for increased enforcement against white supremacists, politicians, and other bad actors who spread dehumanizing and false information.
In the midst of organizations pushing for change, Facebook’s final civil rights audit report was released in July of 2020. While we hoped that Facebook would take the auditor’s recommendations and make this platform safe for all communities, we, again, found ourselves discomposed and at our wits’ end. Facebook’s ability to hide behind supposed “policy changes” that only put a bandaid over the issue is unacceptable. Namely, Facebook’s “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy is widely criticized by the civil rights community, who continue to take issue with the fact that the policy doesn’t ban some white supremacist and hate organizations (over 100 hate organizations identified by Southern Poverty Law Center remain on the platform), and that Facebook doesn’t consistently enforce the policy altogether.
Conservative politicians, unable to acknowledge their own role in the dissemination of white supremacy, cry out that Facebook and other social media platforms have a bias against conservatives. Not only is that claim flat out false; it completely misses the point. We are not talking about free speech in the public square, we are talking about the monetization and organized targeting of hate content. To undermine the civil rights community’s concerns about content moderation and the proliferation of hate online, demeans the simple demand that we seek: to continue to live safe and free from monetized, targeted hate.
Today, Mark Zuckerberg is sitting before Congress, again, reciting polished talking points designed to uplift Facebook’s minimal efforts to protect our communities from hate and downplay the fact that we are simply not guaranteed the same safety on Facebook as our white counterparts are.
Zuckerberg may be able to convince some of us that he has no interest in being “the arbiter of the truth,” but we know the real facts; he will continue to be the arbiter of the convenient truth so long as it makes him richer.