Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Vice President of global communications, marketing and public policy Elliot Schrage, on Capitol Hill, Oct. 12, 2017 / REUTERS

Black Lawmakers Slam Facebook For Ads Targeting BLM, Lack of Board Diversity

Facebook has come under fire by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for absence of diversity in the boardroom none of itseight board membersare people of color and for having allowed the Russian government to systematically use its platform to exploit the Black community.


In a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Black lawmakers questioned Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, on how the company allowedRussian actors to purchase Facebook ads that targeted Black Lives Matter. Facebook listeda “Blacktivist” account among the 470 Russian-linked accounts reported to Congress.

The account was created to exacerbate racial tensions in the country during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It was used to exploit the Black Lives Matter movement by manipulating issues of concern for activists, including police brutality and racial inequality, in order to create ire among whites, allegedly to further coax them to vote for then Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg disclosed to Congress that some 3,000 divisive ads were a part of Russia’s $100,000 political ad buy.At least one Black Lives Matter Facebook post under the Blacktivist account that appeared in late 2015 or early 2016 was geographically targeted through the site’s ad system toward Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., according to CNN.

“Historically, those in the struggle for civil rights have not only been forced to confront institutions of racism in our society, they have also been forced to confront attacks and espionage activity from individual actors and organizations in and outside of government,” Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), chairman of the CBC, said in a statement.

“It is my hope that our tech community takes this matter seriously, is forthright with the Special Counsel and Congress, and does everything it can to make sure it is not manipulated like this again.

“We can’t conclusively say these actions impacted the outcome of the election. But we can say that these ads caused harm and additional resentment to young people who unselfishly fight for justice and equality for African Americans and other marginalized communities.”

House Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, who is leading the House intelligence committee probe, said Sandberg told lawmakers behind closed doors on Wednesday that Facebook is working hard to ensure Americans “understand what the propaganda is that they may or may not be reading.”

Zuckerberghas publicly outlined stepsthe company plans to take to deter governments from abusing the social media network, including making advertising more transparent.

According to The New York Times, several lawmakers in Thursday’s meeting commented that Sandberg frequently said, “We will do better” and “You will get answers,” and that she often agreed with their concerns.

“She was checking the boxes. She said all the right things,” Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) said.

But Payne was not satisfied with Sandberg’s statements.

“I had an uncle who hated when you said ‘gonna:’ ‘I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna do that.’ He used to say, ‘Don’t be a gonna.’ And that’s what I said to her, ‘Don’t be a gonna.'”

Following the meeting,Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)said, “I think that there were so many of us in the room expressing ourselves and asking questions that [Sandberg] really couldn’t take a deep dive into any one thing.”

Perhaps Sandberg’s presence was more of a PR movebecause CBC members have been consistently pressuring Zuckerberg on the issue.

Kellypenned him a letterin late September to “ensure that discriminatory and tactically divisive ad-targeting is aggressively prevented.”

“It is my belief that Facebook cannot be the Trojan horse through which America’s vulnerabilities are exploited,” she wrote.

Lack of Diversity in Facebook’s Board of Directors

Several Black lawmakers have been pressing Facebook for years in regard to the lack of diversity on its board of directors. On Oct. 6, Kelly and Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.)wrote a letter to Zuckerbergregarding the topic.

Sandberg told the CBC on Thursday that Facebook planned to add an African American to its board, a source familiar with the closed-door meeting told Reuters, but she offered no details.

“The fact that no African Americans serve on the board of directors, there are no African Americans in their C-suite that is unacceptable,” Rep.G.K. Butterfield(D-N.C.) told reporters after the meeting.

Facebook’s diversity report made public in August revealed that its Black and Latino workforce increased by 1 percent each to 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

However, the percentage of Blacks and Latinos in technical roles coders, developers, and engineers has been static at 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, since 2014.

“I know as far as the issue around hiring, according to [Sandberg’s] global diversity person [Maxine Williams], they’ve done more hiring of African Americans in the last 18 months than they’ve done in 12 years,” Kelly said, “So they’ve taken steps, but there’s more steps to be taken.”

Facebook has never completed DiversityInc’s extensive annual survey, which yields an empirically driven ranking based on recruitment, talent development, senior leadership commitment and supplier diversity. The nation’s top companies that makethe annual Top 50 list excel in such areas as hiring, retaining and promoting women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, LGBT people and veterans.

“When you look at the data, companies committed to diversity just grow and prosper more on every front,” CNBC reporter Bertha Coombs said in April of the DiversityInc 2017 Top 50 stockindex.

If Facebook doesn’t take concrete steps as a company to reflect the changing U.S. demographics, they will lose out on top talent.

“So if you don’t focus on the buying power of Latinos or people of color, if you don’t look at the fact that in the next 30 years or so, the majority of this country more than 52 percent will be people of color, then you are really missing the big picture,” Coombs said. “And you are really not focusing on the stars and focusing on the future.”

Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, is expected to testify regarding Russia and the 2016 election on Nov. 1 at a House Intelligence Committee hearing.

Latest News

TIAA Launches Programs to Raise Awareness of Racial Injustice and Support Communities in Need through the “Be The Change” Initiative

On June 30, TIAA announced new virtual programs designed to raise awareness of racial injustice and support communities in need as a part of the company’s recently launched “Be the Change” initiative. One is TIAA’s “Race Against Racism,” an effort in support of The Innocence Project which included more than…

Stop TB Partnership and Johnson & Johnson, with support from USAID and The Global Fund, Announce Price Reduction for SIRTURO® (bedaquiline) for Treatment of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Originally published on jnj.com. Joint efforts aim to accelerate scale-up of WHO-recommended all-oral treatment regimens – a transition urgently needed to help protect the health of people with drug resistant-tuberculosis who are particularly vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic In 2020, the initiative aims to reach at least 125,000 patients and could…

Toyota, Alabama A&M and Huntsville Hospital Collaborate to Make COVID-19 Testing Easier

Originally published on pressroom.toyota.com. $100,000 grant provides free service to the community Alabama A & M University (AAMU), Huntsville Hospital and Toyota are developing a mobile health clinic initiative to provide free COVID-19 testing to underserved communities in Madison County. Launching later this year, the mobile medical clinic program has…

Sanofi and Regeneron Provide Update on Kevzara® (sarilumab) Phase 3 U.S. Trial in COVID-19 Patients

Originally published on sanofi.com. Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN) today announced that the U.S. Phase 3 trial of Kevzara® (sarilumab) 400 mg in COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation did not meet its primary and key secondary endpoints when Kevzara was added to best supportive care compared to best supportive care alone (placebo)….

TD Bank: How a PPP Loan Saved Essential Jobs for Hundreds of Frontline Healthcare Heroes Amid COVID-19

Originally published on newscenter.td.com. Yet, “it’s not about earning a paycheck” for these medical responders A hero is defined as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.” Never has that word resonated more than right now, with millions of frontline responders risking their…

Abbott and Tandem Diabetes Care Advance Development of Integrated Technologies for Future Automated Insulin Delivery System

Originally posted on Abbott.com – Companies partner to integrate Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring technology with Tandem’s insulin delivery products to provide options to simplify and tailor diabetes management Abbott (NYSE: ABT) and Tandem Diabetes Care (NASDAQ: TNDM) that they have finalized an agreement to develop and commercialize integrated diabetes…

Cox Communications Helps Keep Kids Engaged in Academics this Summer with New Virtual Programming from Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Originally posted on Cox.com  Cox Communications today announced a $100,000 grant from the James M. Cox Foundation to the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA). The funds will help support the development of new digital programming and enhance functionality of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s MyFuture virtual learning…