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July 9, 2020

Facebook's decisions to allow controversial posts by President Donald Trump have set a "terrible precedent" that could allow the platform to be "used to suppress the voting process," according to an external audit of the company's civil rights policies. published this week.

A report commissioned by Facebook two years ago said the social network had not done enough to protect consumers from discrimination, lies and incitement to violence, which would put additional pressure on the company during the boycott of advertisers.

The findings come after more than 1,000 advertisers, including global brands such as Coca-Cola and Unilever, joined the boycott, launched by major US civil rights groups after the assassination of George Floyd, to get the company to take concrete action, steps to block hate speech.

Auditors wrote that Facebook's approach to civil rights remains too passive and partial and many in the civil rights community have become anxious, frustrated and angry after years of talks urging the company to do more to achieve equality and combat discrimination. while protecting free expression.

Facebook has done nothing about Trump's posts in recent weeks, which have been described as false and violent on Twitter.

Auditors express 'significant concern' about the company's commitment to adhere to a specific definition of free speech, even when it means allowing harmful rhetoric that reinforces hate speech and threatens civil rights.

By refusing to force politicians to follow the same rules as everyone else, Facebook is creating a 'hierarchy of expression ... that privileges certain votes' over others, the report said.

The report's proposals include:

- a more effective policy to tackle voter repression, which 'bans content such as Trump's voting posts' and more consistently implement it before the US presidential election in early November;

- civil rights to be 'more visible' and to become a permanent priority in decision-making in the company;

- Facebook to invest more in tackling 'organized hatred' against Muslims, Jews and other groups;

- a ban on 'supporting' the ideas underlying white nationalism, 'even when the terms themselves are not used';

- specific actions to address bias concerns in the company's algorithms.

The racial justice group Color Of Change, which called for such an audit and helped organize an advertising boycott, said the report rightly assessed the company's approach as 'slow and counterproductive'.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has many times in recent months defended Facebook's policy of not checking political ads.

'.... a terrible precedent that could lead other politicians and citizens to spread false information about legal voting methods, which would allow the platform to be used to suppress voting,' the auditors said.

Facebook commissioned the audit in 2018 as part of its response to a number of criticisms of issues such as data confidentiality, voter repression, incitement to violence and a lack of transparency in political advertising.



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