Report: Facebook Still Has Civil Rights Issues

An independent civil rights audit has concluded Facebook's decision not to remove posts by President Trump revealed an unbalanced view of free expression versus the "critical value of non-discrimination." 

Facebook Settles Civil Rights Complaints, Suits, Related to Ad Platform 

Facebook has just published the third such civil rights audit as it brings to a close the independent review of how it handles content on its site. The report finds there has been progress but that there is also plenty of room for improvement. 

Related: Facebook Will Take Down Hate Speech from Politicians 

The report is being issued at a time when Facebook is facing heavy criticism for its handling of hate speech, political speech, and other content, and is being boycotted by a number of advertisers, as well as at a moment when the nation is taking a hard look at systemic racial discrimination. 

"While the audit was planned, and most of it carried out, long before recent events, its release couldn’t come at a more important time," said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. 

Related: Groups Say Facebook Civil Rights Audit Needs its Own Audit 

Among the reports findings, which Sandberg pointed to in a blog, were that 1) Facebook needs to bring more civil rights expertise in-house to inform its policies and work product; 2) it must do more to address voter suppression and hate speech--the report found Facebook was reading its policies on voter suppression too narrowly when it did not take action on President Trump's statements about mail-in ballots and fraud; 3) that its policy not to fact check politicians--as Twitter does and as the auditors say Facebook should do as well--give a louder voice to the powerful. 

The report's bottom line is that Facebook has to create "a diverse and more inclusive culture, which, in turn, will improve the decisions we make about products and policies." 

Related: FTC Levies $5 Billion Facebook Fine 

Silicon Valley's lack of diversity has been a longstanding criticism from civil rights groups. 

Sandberg said Facebook has heard the criticism and is addressing it. That includes by bringing more of that civil rights expertise in-house, prohibiting threats that voting will could have law enforcement consequences, and banning ads that are "divisive and include fear-mongering statements." 

Related: Facebook Hammered Over Bias Audit 

Facebook has also committed to add 30% more Black people into leadership positions and a $100 million investment in Black-owned small businesses. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.