Lois Frankel

08/06/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/06/2020 11:53

Democratic Women’s Caucus, Speaker Pelosi Send Letter to Facebook Demanding it Stop the Spread of Gendered Disinformation and Misogynistic Attacks Against Women Leaders

Today, Co-Chairs of the Democratic Women's Caucus (DWC) Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14), Lois Frankel (FL-21) and Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), and Vice Chairs Congresswomen Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Deb Haaland (NM-01) along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter signed by 100 U.S. women lawmakers and current and former legislators from around the world, to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. In the letter, the women Members and world leaders urged Zuckerberg and Sandberg to take decisive action to protect women from rampant and increasing online attacks on their platform that have caused many women to avoid or abandon careers in politics and public service. Just a few days ago, a manipulated and widely shared video that depicted Speaker Pelosi slurring her speech was once again circulating on major social media platforms, gaining countless views before TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube all removed the footage. The video remains on Facebook and is labeled 'partly false,' continuing to gain millions of views.

'According to a study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, '…social media have become the number one place in which psychological violence - particularly in the form of sexist and misogynistic remarks, humiliating images, mobbing, intimidation and threats - is perpetrated against women parliamentarians.' In fact, nearly 42 percent of women parliamentarians reported seeing extremely humiliating or sexually charged images of themselves spread through social media. Another recent study determined that in the United States, women elected officials were attacked more often than their male counterparts by fake news accounts, and that these attacks were more likely to be focused on personal traits or character. For example, one sitting female Senator was attacked for not being authentically black or American,' the Members and world political leaders wrote. 'Make no mistake, these tactics, which are used on your platform for malicious intent, are meant to silence women, and ultimately undermine our democracies. It is no wonder women frequently cite the threat of rapid, widespread, public attacks on personal dignity as a factor deterring them from entering politics.'

In the letter, the women Members and current and former legislators around the world called on Facebook to enforce existing rules, including:

  • Quick removal of posts that threaten candidates with physical violence, sexual violence or death, and that glorify, incite or praise violence against women; disable the relevant accounts, and refer offenders to law enforcement.
  • Eliminate malicious hate speech targeting women, including violent, objectifying or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, and derogatory sexual terms;
  • Remove accounts that repeatedly violate terms of service by threatening, harassing or doxing or that use false identities to attack women leaders and candidates; and
  • Remove manipulated images or videos misrepresenting women public figures.

The Members and world leaders also stated that Facebook should stop the amplification of gendered disinformation on its platform, noting much of the most hateful content directed at women on Facebook is amplified by its algorithms which reward extreme and dangerous points of view with greater reach and visibility creating a fertile breeding ground for bias to grow.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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