Facebook has made ‘heartbreaking decisions’ that have set back civil rights, audit says


Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook has made some significant improvements to its platform, but the company has also made “painful decisions over the last nine months with real world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights,” according to an independent audit of the social network’s practices and policies released Wednesday. 

The 89-page report, led by civil right experts Laura Murphy and Megan Cacace, delves into Facebook’s successes and failures on issues like discrimination, online hate and promoting inclusion. The audit praises Facebook for participating in the two-year process but also questions the social network’s commitment to tackling civil rights challenges.

“This report outlines a number of positive and consequential steps that the company has taken, but at this point in history, the Auditors are concerned that those gains could be obscured by the vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights,” wrote Murphy in the audit.

The final report in the audit comes just one day after Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, met virtually with civil rights activists behind a growing advertising boycott of the world’s largest social network. The boycott organizers said the meeting was “disappointing” and they’re not convinced Facebook is doing enough to combat hate speech.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said Wednesday that the audit is the beginning of the social network’s efforts, not the end. 

“There are no quick fixes to these issues — nor should there be,” Sandberg wrote in a blog post. “What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go.”

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