FILE PHOTO: Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

An external audit claimed Facebook is “too reactive” and “slow” in dealing with problematic content such as hate speech and voter suppression in a report published Wednesday. Led by civil liberties and civil rights leader Laura Murhpy, auditors interviewed over 100 civil rights organizations and hundreds more activists. The audit found that Facebook’s decision to permit contentious posts from President Donald Trump enacted a “terrible precedent” that could “weaponize” voter suppression. The posts from May “clearly violated” Facebook policies on voter suppression, hate speech, and increment of violence, but were allowed to remain on the site. Additionally, the audit found the company made decisions over the past year that mark a “significant setback for civil rights.” Facebook ordered the audit two years ago following pressure from civil rights groups.

Prior to the release of the audit, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg met with the civil rights groups involved in the Stop the Hate ad boycott campaign Tuesday to discuss their concerns.  The campaign started June 17, calling for advertisers to pause ad spending for the month of July to demand Facebook address racism on its platforms. Nearly 1,000 advertisers have heeded the call to date.

After the meeting, the company faced criticism for approaching the meeting “like it was nothing more than a PR exercise,” as noted by Free Press CEO Jessica González. Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, told reporters the meeting was “a disappointment.” In a joint statement, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund called the company’s efforts “incremental, rather than the bold action needed,” noting the meeting was “a continuation of our ongoing efforts to push the company toward substantive change to its policies governing voter suppression and disinformation.”

Sandberg said in a Facebook post that the company is making changes to its policies on addressing racism “not for financial reasons or advertiser pressure, but because it is the right thing to do.” Facebook announced Tuesday it will delay its Oversight Board launch until late Fall as the board works on “building a strong institution that will deliver concrete results over the long term.” Critics argue the point of the board’s creation was to prepare Facebook for the upcoming presidential election, which could be missed completely given the launch’s timing.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Auditors hammer Facebook over civil rights decisions – Politico – 7/8/2020
Attorneys hired to review Facebook’s civil rights policies concluded Wednesday that the company has failed to adequately combat discrimination and voter suppression on its platform, and rebuked the social network’s executives for prioritizing political speech over civil rights and other values. The auditors called Facebook’s approach to civil rights “too reactive and piecemeal” in the long-awaited review, and raised concern that the company’s recent progress is threatened by its decision not to take action on posts from President Donald Trump that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballots.

Facebook Civil Rights Audit Signals Bad News for Free Speech – Reason – 7/8/2020
As always, advocates for greater policing of political speech invoke white nationalists and other widely reviled groups to call for Facebook to take more action. But it’s not just hate groups that will suffer from speech crackdowns. Small communities fighting the good fights—or anyone with views deemed outside the majority, really—always get hit hard by these sorts of demands, too.

Facebook’s decision on Trump posts is a ‘devastating’ setback, says internal audit – Protocol – 7/8/2020
The 100-page report examines a range of topics, from Facebook’s hate speech policies and approach to hiring to its work on election interference. But the authors — Laura W. Murphy, former director of the ACLU’s legislative office, and Megan Cacace, a partner in the civil rights law firm Relman Colfax — reserve special scrutiny for the company’s treatment of the President’s posts. They argue that several recent posts in which Trump shared misleading information about voting and called for shooting looters in Minnesota violate Facebook’s own policies. In opting not to enforce those policies, Murphy and Cacace write, the company has not only set a dangerous precedent that other politicians could exploit, but it’s also undermined its own professed commitment to civil rights.

Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook Will Get ‘Better and Faster’ at Censoring ‘Hate Speech’ – Breitbart – 7/7/2020
The Hill reports that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg promised in a recent blog post that the social media giant would “get better and faster” at identifying and censoring what it considers hate speech across its various platforms. […] Sandberg added that both she and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would be meeting with the civil rights groups behind the Stop Hate for Profit campaign which has called on major advertisers to pull their ads from Facebook. The civil rights groups include Color of Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

James Clayton on Twitter, 7/8/2020: BREAKING: The New York Times reporting that Facebook’s civil rights audit – two years in the making – is highly critical. Facebook may be “driving people towards self-reinforcing echo chambers of extremism”

Dylan Byers on Twitter, 7/7/2020: NEW: On FB call, organizer said, “Listen to your advertisers!” Sheryl Sandberg, who has been working w other civil rights folks, replied: “We want to listen to the civil rights community. … We are not going to make this decision based on advertisers”

Brent Bozell on Twitter, 7/8/2020: Facebook’s so-called “civil rights” audit is out and the left is furious because @Facebook won’t silence @realDonaldTrump and kick conservatives off the platform. No matter how much you give in to the left, they demand 100% surrender or you will be crushed.

Kyle Griffin on Twitter, 7/7/2020: Organizers of the Facebook ad boycott met with Zuckerberg. It didn’t go well. “The meeting we just left was a disappointment,” said Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change. “[Facebook] showed up to the meeting expecting an ‘A’ for attendance.”

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