Sand­berg says sorry to tar­geted Oak­land group

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Local - BY LEVI SUMAGAYSAY Mer­cury News

Face­book Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Sh­eryl Sand­berg has apol­o­gized to Color of Change, an Oak­land-based non­profit racial jus­tice ad­vo­cacy group, af­ter a re­cent re­port that it was tar­geted for op­po­si­tion re­search and ac­tion by a firm hired by the com­pany.

Sand­berg and two other Face­book ex­ec­u­tives met Thurs­day with three rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Color of Change at the tech giant’s head­quar­ters in Menlo Park.

“Her apol­ogy was earnest, her apol­ogy was clear,” said Brandi CollinsDex­ter, the group’s se­nior cam­paign di­rec­tor, in an in­ter­view af­ter the meet­ing. “Time will tell whether we fully move the nee­dle.”

Face­book hired Repub­li­can-led De­fin­ers Pub­lic Af­fairs to tar­get its crit­ics and ri­vals with op­po­si­tion re­search and news ar­ti­cles, the New York Times re­ported this month. Among those crit­ics was Color of Change, which has dis­cussed racial is­sues with the so­cial net­work­ing com­pany for the past few years. De­fin­ers cir­cu­lated ques­tions about the group’s ties to lib­eral fi­nancier Ge­orge Soros. It also went af­ter Face­book ri­vals Ap­ple and Google, ac­cord­ing to the Times re­port.

Also at Thurs­day’s meet­ing was Color of Change Pres­i­dent Rashad Robinson, who in a let­ter to Face­book’s top ex­ec­u­tives re­cently said it was no won­der the group had seen “a dra­matic uptick in at­tacks to our plat­form and death threats.

“I want you to know that your pub­lic re­la­tions cam­paign — built on dan­ger­ous nar­ra­tives and steadily pushed to right-wing and main­stream me­dia out­lets — has threat­ened the safety of my team and count­less oth­ers af­fil­i­ated with the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he wrote in the let­ter in which he asked for the meet­ing that oc­curred Thurs­day.

Face­book has not re­turned re­peated re­quests for com­ment about the meet­ing.

Collins-Dex­ter said Face­book made a con­ces­sion at the meet­ing: It promised to pub­licly re­lease by the end of the year a progress re­port on a civil rights au­dit the group had asked the com­pany to un­der­take over con­cerns about hate speech, voter sup­pres­sion, doxxing — the re­lease of per­sonal and con­tact in­for­ma­tion — of black ac­tivists by white su­prem­a­cists and more. How­ever, Face­book would not agree to shar­ing in­for­ma­tion De­fin­ers col­lected about Color of Change and other groups, she said.

Color of Change had also asked Face­book to fire Joel Ka­plan, its head of global pub­lic pol­icy and a Repub­li­can who worked un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. Re­cently, Ka­plan’s ap­pear­ance at con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for Brett Ka­vanaugh caused tur­moil at Face­book, and he later hosted a party af­ter Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion to the Supreme Court. Ka­plan is in charge of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity at Face­book.

Face­book would not com­mit to tak­ing ac­tion on Ka­plan, Collins-Dex­ter said. “As far as en­sur­ing mean­ing­ful (pol­icy) changes, as long as Ka­plan is in­volved, we do not think that will hap­pen,” she added.

The meet­ing came in the same week a for­mer Face­book em­ployee ac­cused the com­pany of “fail­ing” its black em­ploy­ees and users. Collins-Dex­ter said the au­dit her group has been push­ing for also in­cluded is­sues such as im­plicit-bias train­ing and re­tain­ing black em­ploy­ees.


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