Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, October 25, 2019. - Mark Lennihan / AP / SIPA

This is a final audit that comes at the worst time for Facebook. In the middle of a boycott of advertisers, who asked it to fight more against racism, the company published the results of a long investigation on Wednesday. This independent audit concludes that the social network serves as a "sounding board" for extremism, and that Facebook's lax decisions on the moderation of hateful content constitute "a significant setback for civil rights".

Facebook is a "sounding board" for extremism and its lax moderation on hate content represents "a major deficiency in the understanding and application of civil rights", according to a scathing audit #StopHateForProfithttps: //t.co/ uLCgn8hFDb pic.twitter.com/9uSc2Nr2sr

- Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) July 8, 2020

Facebook has taken “problematic” and “heartbreaking” decisions in matters of civil rights, in particular concerning messages from the American president, concludes this independent audit conducted at the request of the world's leading social network. When Donald Trump posted publications in May that could discourage voting or incite violence against citizens demonstrating against racism, the network left them as is, assuring that they were not breaking its rules. But they "clearly transgressed" the conditions of use of Facebook, say the authors of the report who claim to have "vigorously" expressed their group's objections.

Taken at the highest level, these decisions "revealed a major deficiency in the understanding and application of civil rights by Facebook". Twitter, on the contrary, had chosen to report these presidential tweets and to warn its subscribers that they were violating its rules.

"Sounding board" of hatred

The report also points to Facebook's recommendation algorithms, which "fuel extreme content polarization", including suggesting similar groups to users. The social network thus serves as a “sounding board” for extremism, according to the audit.

"Many members of the civil rights community are discouraged, frustrated and angry after years of pleading with the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination while preserving freedom of expression," adds the report.

Facebook has taken "positive and important measures" against intolerance or falsification of election results, concedes the document commissioned by Facebook two years ago. But efforts are deemed insufficient. "At this stage in history, listeners fear that these gains will be masked by the problematic and heartbreaking decisions that Facebook has taken, which represents significant setbacks for civil rights," the document notes. Facebook deals with civil rights issues that are still too often "in reaction" to an event and "piecemeal".

Boycott of advertisers

Several civil rights organizations, amid protests against racism and police violence in the country, are currently pressing for Facebook to more actively fight problematic content and disinformation. But associations behind an advertising boycott against the social network Facebook said they were "disappointed" Tuesday after a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the group, and his number two Sheryl Sanberg.

The report published on Wednesday recommends, among other things, that the group set up structures specifically dedicated to stronger civil rights with experts on key subjects such as elections or hate speech, all under the leadership of a "vice-president in charge of civil rights ”within the company. The document also calls on Facebook to have a stricter interpretation of its rules designed to ban messages that could alter election results, such as that of Donald Trump questioning the integrity of the postal vote.

The group acknowledged in a blog post that the report highlights progress and shortcomings and acknowledged that it needs to do more. "This work over two years has had a profound impact on the way we see our impact on the world," writes number two of the group Sheryl Sandberg. "We have made real progress over the years, but this work is never finished and we know that Facebook must improve the way the network locates and eliminates hate content. The group will implement some of the report's recommendations and is particularly committed to hiring a civil rights specialist "who will continue to push us on these issues internally".

By the Web

Advertising boycott and anger against Facebook escalate

  • Extremism
  • Racism
  • Mark zuckerberg
  • Facebook
  • By the Web