Jul 8, 2020 - Technology

Facebook auditors say it's failing on civil rights

Illustration of white ceasefire flag in the shape of a thumbs down
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The findings from a new civil rights audit commissioned and released by Facebook show that the tech giant repeatedly failed to address issues of hatred, bigotry and manipulation on its platform.

Why it matters: The report comes as Facebook confronts a growing advertiser boycott and criticism for prioritizing freedom of speech over limiting misinformation and protecting users targeted by hate speech.

What they're saying: “Unfortunately, in our view Facebook’s approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal,” the auditors wrote.

  • “The Auditors do not believe that Facebook is sufficiently attuned to the depth of concern on the issue of polarization and the way that the algorithms used by Facebook inadvertently fuel extreme and polarizing content."

Ahead of the 2020 election, the auditors slammed Facebook for not doing enough "to limit misinformation and voter suppression."

  • “With less than five months before a presidential election, it confounds the auditors as to why Facebook has failed to grasp the urgency,” according to the report.

Context: The audit's release comes on the heels of a tense virtual meeting between Facebook and leaders from the civil rights community, who yesterday blasted Facebook executives for "failing to meet the moment."

Details: The nearly two-year long audit was conducted by civil rights veteran Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace, partner in the civil rights law firm Relman Colfax, PLLC.

  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in an online post that "this two-year journey has had a profound effect on the way we think about our impact on the world."
  • "We have made real progress over the years, but this work is never finished and we know what a big responsibility Facebook has to get better at finding and removing hateful content," she wrote.

Go deeper: Boycott organizers slam Facebook following tense virtual meeting

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