- Selena Gomez told Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in September about militia groups on the site.
- The star told AP this week that, in the wake of the Capitol riots, she was frustrated tech platforms failed to heed warnings.
- “Facebook continues to allow dangerous lies about vaccines and COVID and the US election…” she said.
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Selena Gomez emailed Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in September 2020 to warn of US militia groups operating on the social network despite a ban.
The actress and singer this week shared those emails with the AP, expressing frustration in an interview that tech platforms did not do enough to crack down on extremist speech ahead of the US Capitol riots.
She told the AP: “It isn’t about me versus you, one political party versus another. This is about truth versus lies and Facebook, Instagram and big tech companies have to stop allowing lies to just flow and pretend to be the truth.
“Facebook continues to allow dangerous lies about vaccines and COVID and the US election, and neo-Nazi groups are selling racist products via Instagram.”
According to the AP, Gomez wrote in her September email to Sandberg: “[A] search for a militia group ‘Three Percenters’ results in dozens of pages, groups and videos focused on people hoping and preparing for civil war, and there are dozens of groups titled ‘white lives matter’ that are full of hate and lies that might lead to people being hurt or, even worse, killed.”
Insider previously reported that the Three Percenters formed in 2008, per the Anti-Defamation League. Its name stems from the myth that only 3% of colonists fought during the Revolutionary War. The group’s members see themselves as modern-day incarnations of those revolutionaries.
Gomez’s email came despite Facebook banning or restricting militia groups in August.
The actress also took Sandberg, who oversees Facebook’s ad business, to task over lies in ads. The firm does not fact-check lies in political ads.
“I can’t believe you can’t check ads before you take money, and if you can’t you shouldn’t be profiting from it,” she wrote. “You’re not just doing nothing. You’re cashing in from evil.”
AP said Sandberg responded by pointing to the fact Facebook had removed millions of posts for hate speech and had removed divisive ads.
Facebook has been on the defensive after the US Capitol riots on January 6, which saw pro-Trump rioters storm the building and which left five dead. The rioters had planned their activities openly on social media for weeks, on Facebook as well as other platforms.
Sandberg publicly claimed this week the riots had largely been planned off Facebook, saying: “These events were largely organised on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, and don’t have our standards, and don’t have our transparency.”