Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis wrote to Facebook asking that it stop allowing “fake organizations” to advertise on its platform, noting that false and malicious content circulating on Facebook is “undermining” The Bahamas’ democracy.
The letter, which is dated February 21, 2021, was sent to Facebook Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer Newstead and Facebook Chief Compliance Officer Henry Moniz.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of any nation’s democracy and so it is with regret that I write to inform you that advertising content published on your platform from fake accounts is distorting and harming public discourse in our country ahead of our nation’s next general elections,” Davis wrote.
“Please find below a list of 11 accounts that are falsely identifying themselves to the users of your platform. For example, one account describes itself as a history museum — yet it is no such thing.
“None of the accounts listed represent legitimate organizations. They have no offices. They have no staff. They cannot be contacted. They exclusively advertise political content — much of it defamatory and libelous.”
The 11 accounts listed by Davis are: PLPs for Change, a community organization, created October 6, 2017; Inside Nassau, a self-described news and media website, created August 17, 2020; Bahamian Today, created August 17, 2020; 242 Wiki created August 17, 2020; Welmuda***, an entertainment website, created October 29, 2020; 242 Truth Tellers, created November 15, 2020; The History of the PLP, a history museum, created November 16, 2020; Grand Bahama Memes, created December 4, 2020; In the Loop Grand Bahama, an entertainment website, created December 15, 2020; Nygard’s PLP, a community site, created February 8, 2021; and PLP Dirty Dozen, a community site, created February 16, 2021.
Davis said several of those accounts use the PLP’s logo “to try to deceive people into believing these messages come from us”.
“There is strong evidence that these accounts are administered by the same person or persons,” he wrote.
“Identical content is run across various pages, several of the pages link to the same splash page, they use the same video.
“This is not the work of separate organizations. This is the work of one political organization using deceitful tactics to subvert both your rules and our democracy.
“In some of these paid ads — sent out across my country — they have an image of duct tape across my wife’s mouth and duct tape over the mouths of female PLP candidates.
“It has been suggested to me by some, that is now standard practice in politics, and that in order to compete in the digital age, our party should also fund anonymous Facebook accounts that send out false information about our political opponents.”
He said he has refused to do this.
Davis said he wants to end this “poisonous practice” rather than contribute to it.
Davis said it is important to distinguish “these fake advertising accounts from other content on your platform”.
“It is clear that Facebook can be and often is a source of good,” he wrote.
“I am grateful that the PLP is able to use your platform to share ideas and build community. In just the last few weeks alone, I have used Facebook to advertise a food assistance drive, run by our party; hold a youth town hall with first-time voters; and ask Bahamians to support small businesses harmed by COVID lockdowns.
“But, I believe the volume of false and malicious content circulating on Facebook is undermining your company’s reputation and our country’s democracy.”
He said that Facebook’s community standards note that “authenticity is the cornerstone of our community”.
Davis said the fake accounts identified are a violation of the company’s community standards and should be removed.
“These accounts are fake, but the damage they cause is real,” Davis wrote.
“Unfortunately, for citizens the world over, the profits to your company from fake accounts are also real and substantial. In asking you to remove these counterfeit accounts, we are asking you to put the integrity of our nation’s elections ahead of those profits.
“We do not believe one company — headquartered thousands of miles away — should allow outsized lies, funded by bad actors who hide in the shadows, to influence our country’s elections.”