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8 Jul 2020

Independent audit of Facebook finds that some decisions were "significant setbacks for civil rights"; incl. company comments

In July 2020, Facebook released the results of an independent audit on the state of civil rights at the company, covering issues from hate speech to advertising to algorithmic bias.

This investigation into Facebook’s policies and practices was commissioned by Facebook in 2018 following at the urging of civil rights groups and some members of Congress and and is intended to help the company identify, prioritize, and implement sustained and comprehensive improvements to the way it impacts civil rights.

The audit found that Facebook has not done enough to combat hate and abuse on its platform and that "Facebook’s approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal." The auditors have advocated for and would like to see Facebook go further to address civil rights concerns in the following areas (and others):

  • A stronger interpretation of its voter suppression policies and more robust and more consistent enforcement of those policies leading up to the US 2020 election
  • More visible and consistent prioritization of civil rights in company decision-making
  • More resources invested to study and address organized hate
  • A commitment to go beyond banning explicit references to white separatism and white nationalism to also prohibit express praise, support and representation of white separatism and white nationalism even where the terms themselves are not used
  • More concrete action and specific commitments to take steps to address concerns about algorithmic bias or discrimination

The recommendations in the report are not binding. Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg has said that, "While we won’t make every change they call for, we will put more of their proposals into practice."