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Selena Gomez discusses problems with Instagram, Facebook

Actress, singer and one of the most followed celebrities on Instagram Selena Gomez has asked Mark Zuckerberg to stop hate speech.  – Photo by Wikimedia

Selena Gomez messaged Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chairman and chief executive officer, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, on Instagram to stop hate speech groups on their platforms.

She said, “It's been a while since we sat down. We have a serious problem. @Facebook and @Instagram are being used to spread hate, misinformation, racism and bigotry. I am calling on you both to HELP STOP THIS.”

“Please shut down groups and users focused on spreading hate speech violence and misinformation. Our future depends on it. This is an election year. We cannot afford to have misinformation about voting. There has to be fact-checking and accountability. Hope to hear back from you ASAP," Gomez said. She then screenshotted her message and shared it with her 193 million followers on Sept. 19.

Her plea for Facebook to regulate its content better comes a week after the #StopHateForProfit campaign, where celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry put a “freeze” on their Instagram accounts on Sept. 16.

#StopHateForProfit was created earlier this year when a coalition of nine civil rights groups and nonprofit organizations banded together: Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, Common Sense, Free Press, League of United Latin American Citizens, Mozilla, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Hispanic Media Center and Sleeping Giants.

The coalition's mission is to convince Facebook to “take common-sense steps to address the rampant racism, disinformation and hate on its platform,” according to its site.

The celebrities initiated this “freeze” in solidarity with the lives lost at the Kenosha protests. Facebook has been under fire recently for its treatment of hate speech violence, failing to take down the Facebook group “Kenosha Guard,” which was calling for armed civilians to enter Kenosha during the protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Facebook did not take down the page before 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot protestors. But, it did not believe that Rittenhouse knew about the page previously. Zuckerberg did not apologize. Instead, he said, “It was largely an operational mistake. The contractors, the reviewers, who the initial complaints were funneled to, didn't, basically didn't pick this up.”

On Aug. 19, Facebook released a statement titled, “An Update to How We Address Movements and Organizations Tied to Violence.” In it, it outlined the various actions that it would take regarding dangerous individuals and organizations, including removing these pages from Facebook, limiting recommendations and reducing how often they are suggested in search.

One change Facebook wants to make is that it will also be reducing the ranking of these pages in one’s news feed, meaning that these pages may still show up on a news feed, but will be lowered so that it will take longer and be harder to discover.

But, none of these changes are enough for the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which has suggested the following steps like having Facebook, “Submit to regular, third-party, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation with summary results published on a publicly accessible website.”

Gomez, like many other officials, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), are worried about what a lack of measures to take down hate speech on these platforms will do to the political process and the upcoming election.

Zuckerberg acknowledged how there would an increased challenge over polarizing content as the Nov. 3rd election gets closer. “There is a real risk and a continued increased risk through the election during this very sensitive and polarized and highly charged time,” he said.

This is not the first time that Gomez has used her Instagram platform for social justice or even mentioned how important voting is. Back in June, she handed over her Instagram account to 12 influential Black leaders, including Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and author Ibram X. Kendi. At the time, she said, “It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to have this platform and appreciate you all for taking the time to watch.”

Nevertheless, it seems futile to even ask of these intense measures from Zuckerberg, who has not been very clear in the past about Facebook’s intentions with misinformation. Already Facebook was seen as one of the reasons for the contentious election of 2016, yet we seem no closer today to solving this problem of social media interference than four years ago.

But, Gomez might be able to do more than even the government. She, along with companies like Patagonia, Levi's and The North Face that have joined in the #StopHateForProfit campaign, may prove once again that money might be more necessary for change than the political process.  With all of her followers, she is an integral part of Instagram’s revenue.

It might be naive to believe that she can affect change where everyone else has failed, but with the current state of America’s political climate, we might all need a little bit of naivete to fuel our last hopes.

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