The conclusions of Facebook’s own auditors should reinforce criticism that the company has too much power and bends and extends its rules for powerful people. Although Facebook often claims to listen to experts when it comes to making decisions, the company’s decisions on recent contributions by Trump and others suggest that this isn’t always the case on critical freedom of speech issues.
“If you put freedom of expression above any other consideration, I think civil rights considerations tend to take a back seat,”
The report may have more weight than Facebook’s other criticisms of civil rights – including a widespread boycott of advertisers – because Facebook commissioned it. However, there is no guarantee that Facebook will make material changes to its policies or practices.
“Being a platform where everyone can have their voice heard is at the core of our mission, but that doesn’t mean that it is acceptable for people to spread hatred. It is not, ”wrote Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, in a blog post in response to the report. “We have clear guidelines against hatred – and we are constantly striving to implement them better and faster.”
The report follows a Facebook meeting with the organizers of a rapidly growing boycott of over 1,000 advertisers who have multiple Facebook demands, including hiring a top manager who will ensure that the global platform does not promote racism and racism radicalization. The date of publication of the long-awaited report prompted the civil rights groups that organized the boycott to argue that Facebook was trying to divert attention from their demands, which included ending exemptions for politicians. The organizers called the Tuesday meeting “disappointing”.
Facebook denied trying to divert attention from the boycott.
Facebook auditors accused the social network of making political decisions that undermine the progress of civil rights. They said Facebook had failed to improve the experience of black people using the platform, and they offered a forum for white supremacy and white nationalism. They also said the company had delayed responding to calls to hire senior civil rights experts. The most recent decisions about hate speech have been made by executives who lack specific expertise on civil rights and a differentiated understanding of the race.
Facebook has made some concessions, including adding labels to check facts about specific posts. The auditors praised the concessions, but said they had not gone far enough.
Civil rights activists said the publication of the report was by no means an “endgame” in their efforts to change the social network. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the leadership conference on civil and human rights, said work is becoming increasingly critical given the intense polarization that sweeps across the country amid the pandemic and widespread anti-racism protests.
“So much is at stake right now that the platform is doing it right, for our democracy and for our communities,” she said. “The work continues. We will continue to press for these changes to continue after the final report is published. ”
It remains to be seen what changes Facebook will make in the light of the report. Murphy said she was confident that Facebook would adopt some of the audit recommendations, but noted that further advocacy and pressure were needed to ensure this.
“I just can’t predict what problems will cross the finish line,” she said.