Last week, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg went to Washington D.C. to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and pledge Facebook will do more to fight foreign interference on its platform. What she encountered was a group of lawmakers fed up with the social media giant—and its excuses.
While the controversy over Russian-bought Facebook ads during the 2016 election has rattled many lawmakers, African American representatives are particularly aggrieved. Many of the Russian ads attempted to stoke racial divisions within the U.S. and featured gross stereotypes and misrepresentations, in effect trying to turn white Americans against black ones. That’s why many of the black lawmakers greeted Sandberg so skeptically.
“She was checking the boxes. She said all the right things,” Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. said. “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.’”
Several of the lawmakers also expressed frustration at Facebook’s seeming lack of awareness of just what this issue entails.
“This is a very fragile moment in time for African-Americans across this country,” Rep. Cedric L. Richmond said. “What we needed Facebook to understand is that they play a role in the perception of African-Americans.”
Facebook has been on quite the apology tour in recent months over this controversy, but it’s clear that mere words aren’t going to cut it anymore. Now, officials want to see real action.