On Monday morning around 10 a.m., about 50 protesters gathered outside of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s home in the Mission District to protest the social media giant’s use of personal data and refusal to regulate misleading political advertisements.
“We’re sick and tired of waiting for the government to regulate Facebook,” said Tracy Rosenberg, the executive director of Media Alliance and one of the protest’s organizers. “You’re profiting off of us — you’re selling our information.”
The protesters chanted “Wake up Zuck!” and “fake news, real hate” and carried signs that said “Stop the Lies, Protect our democracy” and “break up Facebook.” In colorful chalk on the sidewalk in front of the house, demonstrators wrote phrases like: “Facebook is a Russian asset;” “don’t sell my private data;” and “history will write your epitaph as the man who broke democracy.”
In November, Twitter outright banned political ads, and Google said it would limit the targeting of political ads on its search engine and on its video streaming platform YouTube. Facebook has resisted such changes in policy in the face of criticism.
Zuckerberg in December told CBS This Morning that, “in a democracy,” people should “make their own judgments” about what politicians say. “I don’t think a private company should be censoring politicians or news,” he said.
But protesters say that very mindset is destroying democracy, rather than upholding its values.
“We, like many others and the organizations that put this rally together, feel that Facebook is a dramatic threat to our democratic systems around the world,” said Ted Lewis, an activist with Global Exchange, an organization that advocates for human rights and alternatives to capitalism. “Facebook needs to take responsibility for what they’re doing — they need to get the lies off of their platform.”
Lewis said, specifically, Facebook’s hands-off policy around political advertising is especially troubling. “Political advertising could contain the most blatant falsehood and they refuse to do anything about it,” Lewis said.
Zuckerberg is likely not spending his President’s Day holiday inside of his Mission District manse — as he has some 10 places to call “home” and mainly resides in Palo Alto.
Other protesters bemoaned Facebook’s laissez-faire approach to the spread of misinformation, especially as the 2020 presidential election nears. “You can say anything you want,” said Erin Fisher, an activist with Campaign to Regulate and Break Up Big Tech. “Facebook is the most important. They’re monetizing propaganda.”
“This is one of the pillars of the fight in 2020,” Fisher said, referring to the upcoming November election.
By 11 a.m., protesters had largely dispersed and a few police officers supervised the scene.