Facebook Concludes Civil Rights Audit

Facebook Concludes Civil Rights Audit, Zuckerberg Pushed to Lead in Taking Down Hate by Change the Terms

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Facebook Releases Their Final Civil Rights Audit Of The Platform

Today, Facebook released their final civil rights audit of the platform in response to a demand from countless civil, human and digital rights organizations with input from more than 100 groups, including members of the Change the Terms coalition. Facebook has recently come under fire over CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to enforce platform Community Standards consistently, allowing politicians to post paid ads sowing hate, spreading lies, inciting violence, and targeting election disinformation at people of color.

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Change the Terms steering committee members Color Of Change, Muslim Advocates and Media Justice pressured Facebook to initiate the audit over two years ago, leading the call for structural change and publicly available reports. Our coalition continues to demand that Facebook combine the most advanced technological solutions with diverse, well-supported, and highly-trained moderation staff fluent in the culture, language and history of the regions where content is monitored. We also urge Facebook to create a transparent and neutral online appeal process and provide quarterly online reports to the public summarizing how the company is flagging content and enforcing their terms against hateful activity.

Statements From Change the Terms

Change the Terms released the following statements on the audit, following their long-standing work with Facebook to develop a civil rights accountability structure and address the innumerable harms documented on the platform, undermining public safety, democracy and civil society:

Said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates, a Change the Terms member:

“This civil rights audit highlights the many ways that Facebook enables hate and violence against Muslims and other communities of color but, frankly, we already knew that. And Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg already knew that because we’ve said it to them directly. With the help of Facebook, Muslims are facing threats, armed protests, unspeakable hate and even genocide. It is simply unconscionable that the company has allowed this to go on for so long. Now, with the release of this audit, there is no time left for more excuses and delays. It is time for Facebook to actually do something meaningful for once and create a permanent, accountable civil rights infrastructure within the company in order to end this hate and violence.”

Said Steven Renderos, executive director at MediaJustice and member of Change the Terms:

“The final update of Facebook’s civil rights audit brings more questions than it does answers. Namely, are people of color better off on the platform than they were two years ago when this process started? Today, systemic racism is defining who dies of a virus and who gets killed by police. The proliferation of hate on social media platforms that translates to offline violence is a manifestation of that racism. On that front, Facebook has not done enough to tackle this problem at its core. Solutions that pick at the edges like clarifying community standards and labeling some content will not address hateful activities. And ultimately most important consideration as Facebook assesses future actions must be are these changes making the platform safe for its most vulnerable users.”

Said Rashad Robinson, President at Color Of Change and member of Change the Terms:

“Laura Murphy, whose leadership on the audit and attempt at progress we value greatly, correctly assesses that Facebook’s approach to civil rights is incremental and counterproductive. Notably absent from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg is a commitment to establish a civil rights position at the C-suite level, a long-standing demand of Color Of Change and other civil rights leaders. While the Vice President position is an important step, their office needs to be provided with full resources to be effective. Without this, there is no reason to believe that Facebook will prioritize civil rights protections moving forward, especially as executive leadership backchannels with Trump and far-right extremists. All we can count on is Zuckerberg pontificating about free expression, while giving a free pass to politicians to lie, sow discord, and thrive off of hate and political chaos.”

Said Jessica J. González, Co-CEO of Free Press and co-founder of Change the Terms:

“Facebook policy and enforcement willfully ignores and even enables the problem of hate mongers on the platform, including 100 active white supremacists. There should not be a ‘final’ civil rights audit when hate and election misinformation continue endangering our lives and democracy. Mark Zuckerberg cannot lead Facebook to stop hateful activity from spreading when he is unable to acknowledge how far behind Facebook truly is when it comes to protecting people of color from the danger the platform continues to pose to our lives.”

Said Heidi Beirich, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and co-founder of Change the Terms:

“Facebook has a long way to go to actually rid its platform of hateful activities. Extremists are thriving in private groups, on event pages, on business pages and on regular old pages where both white supremacists and other hate groups, especially anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ, are still found in large numbers. Vile and untrue political ads are proliferating on the platform, disparaging people of color and spreading conspiracy theories. The civil rights audit should be seen as just the beginning of addressing hateful activities, as civil rights protections need to be embraced in every part of the company from the boardroom on down. This should be Mark Zuckerberg’s one and only priority at this point.”

Said Brenda Victoria Castillo, President & CEO at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a Change the Terms member:

"We know for a fact that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are profiting and flourishing off of hate and white supremacist content. Yet, over and over again we see small, negligible policy changes that do not ensure our communities are safe and free from hate on Facebook. The final report from Facebook's civil rights audit largely echoes the issues the National Hispanic Media Coalition and Change the Terms have brought to attention for years, including the fact that Facebook failed to truly establish a long-term civil rights accountability structure for the company moving forward. We're tired of lies and empty promises; Facebook needs to eliminate hate on its platform."

Said Henry Fernandez, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-founder of Change the Terms:

“Facebook’s civil rights audit tells of a company that has built a confused, hodgepodge, unaccountable response to a serious problem that has repeatedly led to killings, violence and dehumanization emanating from its platform. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg name check civil rights groups to distract from the fact they have delivered little. If serious, they would charge all their engineers right now with ending hate on their platform. That’s what Zoom did when racism reared its head on their platform. But Facebook? After the mass killings of Muslims in Christchurch was live streamed on Facebook Live and the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar was facilitated on Facebook, the company chose not to rout anti-Muslim bigotry from their platform.

Even after 22 mostly Latino people were killed by a racist in El Paso who feared the ‘invasion’ lie Donald Trump broadcast in Facebook ads, Zuckerberg defended Trump’s right to spread hate. Most people would be so horrified by their part in facilitating any one of these deadly acts that they would stop everything else until they could remove hate from their platform. But unfortunately, you can still find anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, anti-immigrant screeds and hate groups across the application. In this case, the devil is not in the details, it’s right in the open.”

The Change the Terms coalition has pushed major tech companies, including Facebook, to not only strengthen their rules against hateful content but to adopt specific corporate policies on transparency, enforcement and evaluation. Change the Terms’ model corporate policies, including specific provisions on defining hateful activity, monitoring and enforcing these terms, and can be found here: https://www.changetheterms.org/terms.