As the 2020 presidential election draws near, Facebook announced that the California-based tech giant is updating its Civil Rights Audit and will strengthen its fight against misinformation that obscure public political opinions.
“Civil rights are the foundation of a free and just society — and something we care deeply about as a company. We want to make sure we’re advancing civil rights on our platform, and today we’re sharing a second report that details our efforts,” Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote in a statement.
Updates on Community Standards and Ad Policies
In 2018, the social media network launched the civil rights audit following pressure from civil rights advocacy organization and as a result of the high profile Senate inquiry on the involvement of the social media platform in the spread of misinformation during 2016 Elections. It was led by prominent civil rights advocate, Laura Murphy, with the support of noted civil rights law firm Relman, Dane and Colfax.
Now that 2020 is looming behind curtains, election propaganda and census misinformation is expected, and the social media platform is one of the most potent space for its proliferation. That is why, in an announcement on June 30th, Facebook says that it is updating its civil rights audit to include the protection of the 2020 Census and Elections “against intimidation.”
The announcement, penned by Sandberg, said that Facebook, through its renewed and strengthened commitment on the fight against misinformation, political bias, and discrimination, is updating their policies and strengthening their enforcement against harmful and intimidating contents.
Early this year, Facebook launched a crackdown against white supremacists in its platform. But the civil rights audit revealed that such a move is not enough to safeguard the elections and protect its integrity from misinformation. As part of their update, they will now include contents that have white supremacist themes even if the terms “white nationalism” and “white separatism” aren’t explicitly used.
Furthermore, they are also moving towards ways to make sure that the platform will not be used to organize “events that intimidate or harass people based on their race, religion, or other parts of their identity.”
“Getting our policies right is just one part of the solution. We also need to get better at enforcement — both in taking down and leaving up the right content,” Sandberg wrote.
As part of the efforts of the tech giant in fighting misinformation, Facebook also aims to put an end to ads that promote it.
Civil Rights Task-Force
But the most important update for Facebook’s fight against misinformation is their commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the 2020 census.
“With both the US Census and the US presidential elections, 2020 will be a big year. An accurate census count is crucial to governments for functions like distributing federal funds and to businesses and researchers. That’s why we’re going to treat next year’s census like an election — with people, policies and technology in place to protect against census interference.”
As part of this initiative, Facebook organized a team dedicated for these census efforts which will be focused on designing policies and implementing them against misinformation related to the census.
The team, working across “product, engineering, data science, policy, legal and operations” are dedicated full time to these efforts. As the announcement reveals, the team is already working on a ban against ads that discourage voting.
More importantly, Facebook also launched a Civil Rights task-force that will work for the company’s efforts to forward civil rights causes and “long-term accountability across the company.” The task-force, which would recruit civil rights experts to ensure it is effective in addressing areas like content policy, fairness in artificial intelligence, privacy, and elections, will be trained together with high Facebook officials who work in the early stages of developing relevant products and policies.
“The training is designed to increase awareness of civil rights issues and build civil rights considerations into decisions, products, and policies at the company. We know these are the first steps to developing long-term accountability. We plan on making further changes to build a culture that explicitly protects and promotes civil rights on Facebook,” Sandberg added.