Facebook not doing enough to fight discrimination, audit says

Reuters New Delhi, India Jul 08, 2020, 03.30 PM(IST)

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The auditors' findings are likely to add further pressure to the company which is already facing a boycott by some 900 advertisers

Facebook Inc has not done enough to fight discrimination on its platform and some of its decisions were setbacks for civil rights, according to an independent audit commissioned by the company, the New York Times reported.

The auditors' findings are likely to add further pressure to the company which is already facing a boycott by some 900 advertisers, including major brands such as Coca-Cola, over what civil rights campaigners say is its promotion of hate speech.

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"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," the auditors wrote, according to the Times, which said it had obtained a prepublication report of the findings.

Facebook commissioned Laura Murphy, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative office, to lead the audit of its civil rights policies in 2018. It was responding to a range of criticisms over issues such as data privacy, voter suppression, incitement of violence and a lack of transparency in political advertising.

A Facebook spokesperson said the 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.

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"What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go. As hard as it has been to have our shortcomings exposed by experts, it has undoubtedly been a really important process for our company.”

The auditors said Facebook had been too willing to exempt politicians from abiding by its rules, allowing them to spread misinformation, harmful and divisive rhetoric, and even calls to violence.

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Facebook has taken a hands-off approach to political speech compared to rivals, notably leaving untouched a post by President Donald Trump in May which its rival Twitter flagged as an incitement to violence.

Organizers of the advertising boycott, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the NAACP, met for more than an hour via video conference with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. After the meeting, activists said they saw "no commitment to action" from the company.