Facebook Needs to Do More to Protect Civil Rights

Facebook’s decision to not fact-check political posts has left its platform vulnerable to misuse by politicians to interfere with voting and suppress civil , according to a two-year audit of the company’s policies and practices by civil expert Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace.

The 100-page evaluation says Facebook repeatedly contradicted its own policies enabling malicious actors to abuse its platform for spreading hate, discrimination, and more. The review adds that the social network’s executives on numerous occasions failed to take into account civil rights standards and contradicted its own policies in the name of free expression.

“Many in the civil rights community have become disheartened, frustrated, and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression,” wrote the authors.

The report argues that Facebook’s “approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal,” and that the company often takes too long to reach a conclusion, by the time significant damage has already been done.

Facebook’s refusal to act against recent posts by President Donald Trump that many competitors such as Twitter took down the report’s authors believe is a “tremendous setback for all of the policies that attempt to ban voter suppression.”

“Facebook has made policy and enforcement choices that leave our election exposed to interference by the President and others who seek to use misinformation to sow confusion and suppress voting,” said the authors.

The report goes on to suggest that Facebook’s stand on free expression should apply to everyone equally. “When it means that powerful politicians do not have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, a hierarchy of speech is created that privileges certain voices over less powerful voices.”

Sheryl Sandberg, in a blog post, said that while Facebook won’t “make every change they call for,” it has begun putting into practice some of the proposals. One of the ways Facebook is addressing these concerns is by bringing onboard a civil rights leader “who will continue to push [them] on these issues internally.”

“This audit has been a deep analysis of how we can strengthen and advance civil rights at every level of our company but it is the beginning of the journey, not the end. What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go,” she added.

The report comes a day after activist organizations behind a widespread ad boycott of Facebook told Digital Trends they don’t believe CEO Mark Zuckerberg is committing to confronting hateful content after meeting with him and other Facebook executives with one calling it a “PR exercise.”

“The #StopHateForProfit campaign is winning support across the world because this issue is global: Facebook helped incite a genocide in Myanmar and we’ve recently heard growing concerns about deadly hatred being fueled in India via Facebook’s products,” Richard Wilson, director of Stop Funding Hate, told Digital Trends. “Until the company takes robust steps to prevent their platform being used to foment violence, many will share the skepticism expressed by the organizers of today’s meeting.”

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