Platform criticized for unbalanced approach to free speech vs. discrimination
An independent civil rights audit has concluded Facebook’s decision not to remove posts by President Trump revealed an unbalanced view of free expression versus the “critical value of non-discrimination.”
Facebook has just published the third such civil rights audit as it brings to a close the independent review of how it handles content on its site. The report finds there has been progress but that there is also plenty of room for improvement.
The report is being issued at a time when Facebook is facing heavy criticism for its handling of hate speech, political speech, and other content, and is being boycotted by a number of advertisers, as well as at a moment when the nation is taking a hard look at systemic racial discrimination.
“While the audit was planned, and most of it carried out, long before recent events, its release couldn’t come at a more important time,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Among the reports findings, which Sandberg pointed to in a blog, were that 1) Facebook needs to bring more civil rights expertise in-house to inform its policies and work product; 2) it must do more to address voter suppression and hate speech–the report found Facebook was reading its policies on voter suppression too narrowly when it did not take action on President Trump’s statements about mail-in ballots and fraud; 3) that its policy not to fact check politicians–as Twitter does and as the auditors say Facebook should do as well–give a louder voice to the powerful.
The report’s bottom line is that Facebook has to create “a diverse and more inclusive culture, which, in turn, will improve the decisions we make about products and policies.”
Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity has been a longstanding criticism from civil rights groups.
Sandberg said Facebook has heard the criticism and is addressing it. That includes by bringing more of that civil rights expertise in-house, prohibiting threats that voting will could have law enforcement consequences, and banning ads that are “divisive and include fear-mongering statements.”
Facebook has also committed to add 30% more Black people into leadership positions and a $100 million investment in Black-owned small businesses.