Washington, DC — On Wednesday, The Herald Bulletin reported that Levi Cox—a recently-hired street commissioner for the city of Anderson, IN—shared anti-Muslim content on Facebook, including content that falsely linked Muslim Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to 9/11. In response, Cox said the posts were “comical” and offered a half-hearted apology that avoided any accountability. Similar offensive posts, including from Donald Trump, have led to both women receiving death threats. Muslim Advocates is also suing Facebook for deceiving consumers by claiming that the company prohibits hateful, anti-Muslim content on the platform. The following is a statement from Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates’ senior policy counsel:
“There is nothing ‘comical’ about falsely linking two Muslim congresswomen, who regularly receive death threats because of their faith, to 9/11. The Facebook posts Mr. Cox shared are full of false, anti-Muslim smears that regularly inspire hate and violence against American Muslims and specifically Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Cox’s non-apology demonstrates that he does not understand the seriousness of his actions. Someone who remorselessly shares dangerous, anti-Muslim hate like that cannot be trusted to ensure all of Anderson’s residents have safe and equal access to public services, regardless of their background.
We call on Mr. Cox to issue an explicit apology to the congresswomen and acknowledge the danger that sharing false, anti-Muslim hate can create. If he fails to do this, Mayor Broderick should immediately fire him.
Finally, we must acknowledge that Facebook bears some responsibility. Facebook’s business model relies on inflammatory, hateful content to drive engagement by amplifying the online presence of elected officials who spread bigoted disinformation. From Commissioner Cox to Donald Trump, Facebook has incentivized politicians to deploy divisive, fear-based online campaigning, leading to real-life consequences. When politicians spread hate, vulnerable communities like American Muslims pay the price.
Half-measures are not enough. Facebook must not let elected officials or anyone else spread disinformation and hate without consequence.”
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.