LOS ANGELES – Hours after an angry mob of Trump supporters took control of the U.S. Capitol in a violent insurgency, Selena Gomez has laid much of the blame on Big Tech.
“Today, this is the result of allowing hateful people to use platforms that should be used to bring people together and allow people to build community,” the singer / actor tweeted. “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, Susan Wojcicki – you all let the American people down today, and I hope you sort things out in the future. . “
This is just the latest effort by Gomez, 28, to draw attention to the danger that internet companies say they have taken advantage of disinformation and hate on their platforms. Gomez has been calling Big Tech for months – publicly on the very platforms she fights against and privately in conversations with the big hitters in Silicon Valley.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Gomez said she was frustrated with what she saw as the lackluster response from companies and that they had to “stop doing the bare minimum.”
“It’s not about me against you, one political party against another. This is the truth against the lies and Facebook, Instagram and the big tech companies need to stop leaking the lies and pretend to be the truth, ”Gomez said in a phone interview from New York. “Facebook continues to allow dangerous lies about vaccines, COVID and the US election, and neo-Nazi groups are selling racist products through Instagram.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
Representatives for Facebook and Twitter declined to comment. Google did not respond to an AP request for comment.
Gomez is among a growing number of celebrities who use their platforms to call out on social media, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Kerry Washington and Kim Kardashian West.
Gomez became passionate about the issue in 2017 when a 12-year-old girl commented on one of her Instagram posts: “Go kill yourself.
“It was my tipping point,” she says. “I couldn’t handle what I was seeing.”
Social media experts have argued that companies like Facebook and Twitter played a direct role in the Capitol uprising by allowing both the planning of the uprising on their platforms and through algorithms that enable theories of the dangerous plot to take flight. That’s even if executives, like Facebook’s Sandberg, have insisted that riot planning largely took place on other, smaller platforms.
“Operational planning was happening in spaces that Selena, for example, identified in advance with Sheryl Sandberg saying, ‘You know, we have to do something about white supremacist extremism online and their ability to just form a group on Facebook and talk happily. away from each other, plan what they’re going to do next, ”said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which helped educate Gomez about online disinformation.
In emails shared exclusively with the PA, Gomez told Sandberg in September that “the search for a ‘Three Percent’ militia group results in dozens of pages, groups and videos focused on people hoping and hoping to are preparing for civil war, and there are dozens of groups called “White Lives Matter” that are full of hate and lies that can lead to injury or, worse yet, death. “
That’s even if Facebook banned US-based militia groups from its service in August.
In the same email, Gomez also points out several advertisements containing lies that voter fraud is allowed to remain on Facebook and Instagram and wonders why this was allowed.
“I can’t believe you can’t check the ads before you take the money, and if you can’t, you shouldn’t be enjoying it,” she wrote. “You don’t just do nothing. You profit from the evil.
In an email response to Gomez, Sandberg defends Facebook’s efforts to remove harmful content, saying the platform has removed millions of hate speech posts and bans ads that divide, torch or deter people. to vote. She did not directly address the advertising examples mentioned by Gomez.
“It’s beating around the bush and saying what people want to hear,” Gomez said of his interactions with Sandberg and Google, among others. “I think at this point we’ve all learned that words don’t match unless the action happens.”
In the wake of the violence on the U.S. Capitol, tech companies have made some of their biggest changes to date.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms have banned President Donald Trump, drawing criticism from some, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that it was censorship, and praise from others who claim that the president abused his platform by encouraging violence.
In a thread defending Trump’s ban on Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey said that “the offline damage resulting from online speech is clearly real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all else.
In addition to banning Trump, Facebook removed videos and photos of rioters on Capitol Hill. The company also added text on posts questioning the election, confirming Joe Biden was legally elected and saying it was taking coercive action against militarized social movements like QAnon.
While the changes are positive, they are “just a drop in the bucket,” said Jeff Orlowski, director of Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma,” a popular 2020 film that showed how the pursuit of profit from Silicon Valley could pose an existential threat to the United States. the democracy.
Voices like Gomez’s can be a big help in getting the point across, given his hundreds of millions of followers, Orlowski said.
“Think about the ad revenue for each Selena Gomez post. Think of the ad revenue for every Donald Trump post, the ad revenue for every post of The Rock or whoever it is, ”he said. “These people are literally generating millions of dollars for these businesses … The 20 most influential people on Instagram probably have the most influence on Mark and Sheryl compared to anyone else until finally Congress as a whole gets enough momentum and energy to put legislation in place.
Orlowski and Ahmed both said they are looking to the Biden administration for reforms, including a move that would hold social media companies accountable for posts they allow, an effort that has gained momentum and garnered bipartisan support.
“The question is no longer, ‘Will there be a change,” Ahmed said. “The question is,’ What kind of change are we going to get? ‘”
Meanwhile, Gomez promises to keep fighting as long as she has a pedestal.
“As long as I have this, I’m going to do good things with it,” she said. “I think that’s my goal.”
Associated Press writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report from Oakland, California.